Page 13


Vol. 70, No. 25 December 29, 1978 . ,.., ….N. 7.,7 7 opz -r +. The OBSERVER ‘The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1978 Ronnie Dogger, Publisher Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. EDITOR Jim Hightower ASSOCIATE EDITORS Linda Rocawich Eric Hartman EDITOR AT LARGE Ronnie Dugger PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid, Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Boh Sindermann Jr. STAFF ASSISTANTS: Margot Beutler, Beverly Palmer, Harris Worcester, Larry Zinn, Jamie Murphy, Lisa Spann, Helen Jardine, Viki Florence, Karen White, Charles Lohrmann, Martha Owen CONTRIBUTORS: Kaye Northcott, Jo Clifton, Warren Burnett, Jack Hopper, Stanley Walker, Dan Hubig, Ben Sargent, Berke Breathed, Eje Wray, Roy Hamric, Thomas D. Bleich, Ave Bonar, Jeff Danziger, Lois Rankin, Maury Maverick Jr., Bruce Cory, John Henry Faulk, Chandler Davidson, Molly twins, Ralph Yarborough, Laura Richardson, Tim Mahoney, John Spragens Jr., Sheila R. Taylor. Doug Harlan, David Guarino, Susan Lee, Bob Clare, Keith Dannemiller BUSINESS STAFF: Cliff Olofson, Ricky Cruz ADVERTISING: Rhett Beard A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of ree voices. Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July: 25 issues per year, Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Publication no. 541300. years, $36. Foreign, except APO/FPO, $1 additional per year. Airmail, bulk orders, and group rates on request. Microfilmed by Microfilming Corporation of America, 21 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. Postmaster: Send form 3579 to The Texas Observer. Editorial and Business Offices 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 741110.’,F4: 2 DECEMBER 29, 1978 By Creekmore Fath Austin It was in February of 1941 that I met Russell Lee. I was walking along 14th Street in Washington, D. C., in front of the Commerce Department on my way to the Willard Hotel for lunch, when I encountered a group of four men walking toward the Agriculture Department. They were Roy Stryker and Pare Lorentz, both of whom I knew, and Russell Lee and John Vachon. I was familiar with the work of Lee and Vachon as members of Roy Stryker’s famed team of Farm Security Administration photographers, but this was my first meeting with them and I remember it vividly. John Vachon I recall as being terribly reticent, even shy, while Russell Lee was jovial and had a smile that wrinkled his face around the eyes and mouth with laugh lines that obviously were working most of the time. Russell Lee was, and is, a delightful person to be around, a friend to be comfortable with. This was my first impression and it has held true for 37 years. Already by 1941, among his peers and among those familiar with the world of photography, Russell Lee was acknowledged to be one of the dozen or so genuinely good photographers in RUSSELL LEE PHOTOGRAPHER By F. Jack Hurley Introduction by Robert Coles Morgan & Morgan, 1978. the United States. The book, Russell Lee Photographer, attests that Lee is not only good but will be numbered among the great. In this selection of 178 photographs, out of something like 100,000 that Lee has taken in the past 40-odd years, we have examples of the photographer as historian, as storyteller, as artist, as master of his craft. Lee shows that all of life around us is picturesque and important; it just takes the gifted eye of a great photographer to capture it for us, to see the composition before the shutter clicks and get it just right. The judgment of light and shadow, the sense of timing are what separates the merely competent, let alone the rest of us with our Brownies and Instamatics and Polaroids, from the really gifted. Again and again in this book, Lee demonstrates his mastery of this art of right nowof choosing and capturing the crucial instant. When is a photograph a good photograph? I guess the test is whether it has something to show and shows it well. When I look at a photograph I don’t think about whether or not this photograph is art. But good ones are. Indeed, photographs have destroyed the conventional wisdom about artistic composition. Photography has demonstrated that the compositions of nature can be beautifully dramatic and artistic, while defying society’s aesthetic formulas. And photographs of man-made assemblages, as Lee shows in this book, can be as striking and eye-catching as a Jackson Pollock. Of the superb photographers who first came to public attention in the days of Franklin Roosevelt’s Farm Security Administration, Russell Lee is the last to be sought out and published in a book devoted to his work alone. Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Arthur Rothstein have had their books, and now it is time for Russell Lee. But this book is only a bit of the icing on the cakethere are more books waiting in the Lee archives. One I look forward to is Russell Lee On Texas Politics. For there in his files are wonderful pictures of Yarborough and Shivers and Daniel and John Garner, magnificent studies of Minnie Fischer Cunningham and Frankie Randolph and Lillian Collier and Mary Ellis and Lillian Bedichek and hundreds of other men and women who labored in the vineyards of Texas democracy for so long. In action, in caucus, in conference, in convention, buttonholing, cajoling, wheedling, wheeling and