Roy Stryker: The Man Who "Killed" Photographs


A few will know of Roy Stryker, but the name resonates to photographers belonging to the cream of the crop. No, not because he as a favorite figure. He was the photographer who "killed" photographs.

To understand Stryker's relevance in photography is to know this: he was the man who hired Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, John Collier Jr, Carl Mydans, and Edwin and Louise Rosskam. And the images they produced for his project while he was the director of the FSA were they ones that became iconic. Lange's "Migrant Mother" is a fruit from this project. The purpose of the project was to capture the "misery" of the USA during the Great Depression.

Now, here's the notorious thing about him. Since he was the photo editor of the time, he was very much a tyrannical one. Stryker and his assistants would be meticulously reviewing the photographs of hired photographers who just got back from their assignments. Stryker didn't have an explicit criteria to determine which images should be published or not. If the latter, the images would meet his puncher.

Some photographs were punctured once, some were completely damaged -- perhaps a message that the image should never be seen by the public eye.

Images are from the U.S. Library of Congress, public domain.

2017-03-19 #culture #people #photography #old-photos #documentary-photography #vintage-photography #roy-stryker


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  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    a very interesting article!

  2. akula
    akula ·

    I can't help but think they are better because of the punch.

  3. retina123
    retina123 ·

    The purpose of the Farm Security Administration's Information Division was to document the FSA's work and the reason for it's existence. Yale University has an ongoing project to digitize the 170,000 + photographs of the FSA and the Office of War Information. Those photographs can be found at

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