Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985)
gelatin silver print, printed c. 1936-1939, Image: 19.70 x 19.10 cm (7 3/4 x 7 1/2 inches); Matted: 55.88 x 45.72 cm (22 x 18 inches). Norman O. Stone and Ella A. Stone Memorial Fund 2001.91
In the spring of 1936, Rothstein photographed in Cimarron County in the Oklahoma panhandle-one of the worst wind-eroded areas in the United States during the Dust Bowl years. Out of that body of work came this unforgettable image, which became one of the best known symbols of the country's economic struggles of the 1930s. Rothstein skillfully relied on design and composition to enhance the graphic effect and to make the desired message as clear as possible. The result was a photograph that is both a transcendent artistic expression and a document that communicates a compelling story. In describing the experience of making this picture, Rothstein said:
The buildings, barns and sheds were almost buried by drifts and in some places only the tops of fence posts could be seen.... While making my pictures I could hardly breathe because the dust was everywhere. It was so heavy in the air that the land and sky seemed to merge until there was no horizon..... Just as I was about to finish shooting I saw a farmer and his two sons walk across the fields. As they pressed into the wind, the smallest child walked a few steps behind, his hands covering his eyes to protect them from the dust. I caught the three of them as they reached the shed.