On June 6, 1940, the Magdalena News, a tiny paper in Socorro County, New Mexico, printed the following notice: “Mr. Lee of Dallas, Texas, is staying in Pietown, taking pictures of most anything he can find. Mr. Lee is a photographer for the United States Department of Agriculture. Most of the farmers are planting beans this week.” Like Lange, Lee was working for the Farm Security Administration, but his approach was rather different. He announced himself and got to know the people of Pie Town, a hamlet on the great divide. Like Steinbeck, he captured hard times made easier by friends.
Unlike many other Depression-era photographers, Lee shot in color as often as in black and white. The result of this choice – and expense – is that his images of the period seem strikingly contemporary and all the more disconcerting for it. The Pie Town images, eventually collected in 2004’s “Bound for Glory: America in Color 1939-43,” are more timeless for being so modern. They are pictures of a New Mexico that still exists down certain dusty roads.
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Mrs. Jim Norris with homegrown cabbage, one of the many vegetables which the homesteaders grow in abundance