Russell Lee is one of the twentieth century’s most important but overlooked photographers. He launched his career during the Great Depression with the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentary project, alongside legendary artists including Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein. Although Lee was the single largest contributor, longest tenured, and most widely traveled of the group, he is often overshadowed by his more famous colleagues. Living out of his car from 1936 to 1942, Lee made more than 23,000 photographs in twenty-nine states, but spent the most time in Texas, which he called “one of the best states of all.”
Humanities Texas has a traveling exhibit about Russell Lee that is being showcased at Russell Lee Elementary School in Austin, Texas January-February 2024 in partnership with the Russell Lee Elementary PTA. To To learn more, please visit the PTA website at Lee Elementary and the Humanities Texas webpage for the traveling exhibit.
Join Lee biographer Mary Jane Appel for an illustrated talk about Lee’s extraordinary FSA work and its legacy, his service during the Second World War, and his post-war life and work in his beloved Lone Star State.
Mary Jane Appel is a historian of American social documentary photography and has worked with image collections in archival and curatorial capacities at various institutions including the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and Texas State University. She is the author of Russell Lee: A Photographer’s Life and Legacy and co-author with Douglas Brinkley of the forthcoming American Coal: Russell Lee Portraits. She lives in Washington, D.C.