Roots of the Red River Valley Through the lens of Russell Lee

Roots of the Red River Valley
Through the Lens of Russell Lee

January 9 – March 21, 2021
Heritage Hall

Hjemkomst Center
202 1st Avenue North
Moorhead, MN 56560

Roots of the Red River Valley offers an intimate look at one of the region’s economic pillars in this photographic history of Polk County’s 1937 sugar beet harvest. The exhibition includes 84 images from acclaimed photographer Russell Lee, taken primarily near Fisher, Crookston, and East Grand Forks. In Roots of the Red River Valley, Lee’s images are ordered into three distinct categories highlighting the role of the farmer, migrant worker, and factory. The exhibition invites viewers to ponder the lives of rural and migrant laborers, particularly their relationships, families, and homes.

Russell Lee was born in Illinois in 1903. He attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. He left his work in chemical engineering to take up painting, which in turn, led to his keen interest in photography. During the Great Depression, Lee was employed by the federal Farm Security Administration on a photographic documentation project. He joined a team under the direction of economist and photographer Roy Stryker that also included Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein. Lee documented the human stories of segregation, the Great Depression, WWII, internment camps, and much more. His work with the Farm Security Administration brought Lee to the Red River Valley in 1937. Following his work with the FSA he enlisted in the military and served as a photographer with the Air Transport Command. He finished his career as the first instructor of photography at the University of Texas.

Roots of the Red River Valley: Through the Lens of Russell Lee is sponsored by American Crystal Sugar.

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Roots of the Red River Valley: Through the Lens of Russell Lee was produced and designed by UMN Crookston‘s Ken Mendez, Megan Beck Peterson, and Lauren Wallace.