A doctor examines a child’s fractured arm at an FSA camp clinic in Weslaco, Texas
in 1942

A doctor examines a child’s fractured arm at an FSA camp clinic in Weslaco, Texas in 1942

Early in my career I was deeply affected by the photographs of the Farm Security Administration (FSA). It is a visual record of American life between 1935 and 1944.

This was a U.S. government photography project headed for most of its existence by Roy E. Stryker. It is still the most famous documentary photography project ever undertaken. Some of the better-known photographers were Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, and Russell Lee.

The photographs touched me because they were about ordinary lives. And it was not lost on me that women were deeply involved in this work. Dozens of books have been published about the individual photographers and on the entire body of work.

In 1976 I searched for and found first-time parents in Louisville, Kentucky willing to let me photograph the first year of life with their new baby. I went on to spend 42 years (and continuing) documenting the McGarvey family. Always in the back of my mind I was remembering the work of the FSA photographers making a record of daily life. That famous project was the root of the personal project that has spanned most of my life.

There are important stories to tell about the major subjects of the day, but I am most interested in the ordinary stories that seem insignificant in the moment but are the cultural artifacts of our time.

The original parents of the family I am documenting have four grandchildren and another one on the way. 

Farm Security Administration

Commissioned by U.S. government


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