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Gelatin silver print, printed 1981
Image: 22.6 x 30.5 cm (8 7/8 x 12 in.); Paper: 27.5 x 35.5 cm (10 13/16 x 14 in.)
Gift of Alan and Monah L. Gettner 2001.166.2
Edition: 50 + II artist's proofs
In February 1937 the Farm Security Administration assigned Rothstein to photograph Gee’s Bend, a former plantation that had become an isolated African American sharecropping community. The people were described in a 1937 federal report as “living together in this tribal like settlement far away from civilization in their habits and manner of living.” The agency’s hope was that images of their extreme poverty could generate support for farm tenant legislation pending in Congress. Rothstein’s images emphasize the difficult yet sometimes picturesque living conditions rather than any signs of progress. Here young Artelia Bendolph is seen in the window of a log cabin. The window is solid wood, not transparent glass, insulated with magazine pages. Gee’s Bend later became world famous for the sophisticated artistry of its quilting tradition.
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