Santa Fe R.R. Freight Train in Corwith Yard, Chicago, Ill.
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A massive cloud of steam rises gently from the belly of the machine below on a wintry Chicago morning. Taken in 1943, this image is about more than just a train on its way to warmer climates on the West Coast - it illustrates a changing time. Steam locomotives were being replaced by diesel, the Farm Security Administration's direction was becoming more war-oriented, and their photographers were changing their focus from individuals to industry. Jack Delano knew this - note the difference in size between the men working by the train and the train itself, implying the growing importance of machinery. And yet this steam train is turned away from the light, heading into darkness and obscurity, in contrast to the steam, floating away into the chilly winter air.
Jack Delano | See All Editions
Jack Delano, born Jacob Ovcharov in a small village in Ukraine (then Russian Empire) in 1914, made images that focused on the honesty and dignity of the Everyman. “To do justice to the subject has always been my main concern,” he wrote in his autobiography, a goal that made him a perfect fit for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) photography program. Hired in 1940, Delano quickly became known for his striking compositions and sensitivity to his subjects. His wife Irene later said, "I just don't think there was a time that [Jack] worked for Farm Security that he just wasn't completely absorbed in it, and felt that we were performing a great mission." Like many of the FSA photographers—including Marion Post Wolcott and Dorothea Lange—Delano traveled the United States documenting Americana in all its forms.
As part of the FSA project, Delano traveled to Puerto Rico in 1941. He fell in love with the region and settled there permanently in 1946. He and his wife Irene worked in the Community Division of the Department of Public Education while living there, producing films (for many of which Delano composed the score). He passed away in Puerto Rico in 1997 at the age of 83.
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