In 1962, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented The Bitter Years, curated by Edward Steichen. This exhibition included over 200 images taken between the years of 1935-1944 by a small group of photographers working for the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration Programme (the FSA). Many of the best known Depression-era photographers were fostered by the FSA including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein. Under the direction of Roy Stryker, these photographers were sent out to document the plight of rural workers, to introduce ‘America to Americans.’
The Human Document takes The Bitter Years as its starting point in exploring artists’ enduring fascination with the FSA Historical Section– both as photographs designed to awaken human emotions and as a collective body of images. It presents a selection of photographs from The Bitter Years, corresponding to Steichen’s original thematic groupings, alongside photography by contemporary artists including Richard Billingham, Paul Graham, Sunil Gupta, Chris Killip, Susan Lipper and Eileen Perrier as well as the film installation On Photography, People and Modern Times by Akram Zaatari.