Jack Delano


Figure 5. Jack Delano, "One of the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts," 1941. Source: Library of Congress


Figure 6. Jack Delanno, "Large Textile Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1941. Source: Library of Congress


Figure 7. Equally as impressive and underscoring this point is Delano’s 1941 photograph “Textile mill working all night in Lowell, Massachusetts,” Here the power and vitality of production is captured with the lights inside the factory attesting to life and energy amidst a deserted snow littered exterior street scene. Source: Library of Congress


This is not to suggest that industrial work sites do not appear in FSA photographs, but rather that when these documentarians turned their camera’s lenses toward the shop floor, they tended to focus on buildings, machinery, and the products of labor rather than on workers themselves. “Capitalism pushes the worker out of the frame” writes historian Erica Toffoli; while our eyes focus elsewhere “the producer remains in our blind spot.”[1]

Certainly this is true of two of the most talented FSA photographers, Jack Delano and John Vachon. The former’s superb shots of New England textile mills and the latter’s images of midwestern stockyards and packinghouses depict hulking structures and massively scaled animal pens but workers, even when they appear in the frame, are afterthoughts (figures 5-7). View more of Delano's FSA work at the Library of Congress. 


1. Erica Toffoli, “ Alienating Exposures: Photographing the Activity of Labor,” Photography & Culture 13:2 (June 2020), 198.