Arthur Rothstein was born in New York City in 1915 and became one of the most prolific and influential photographers of the 20th century. The broad scope of his work parallels that of American life from the Great Depression through the Reagan years, as well as international events from post-War famine in China to May Day in Moscow's Red Square at the height of the Cold War. From Welsh coal miners to the Reichstag in ruins, to the unique documentation of the Jewish refugee population in Shanghai after World War II, it was said of Arthur Rothstein that he went everywhere, saw everything and brought his camera.
Arthur Rothstein was a gifted student, graduating from Stuyvesant High School and enrolling in Columbia College at age sixteen as a chemistry major. He developed an interest in photography from the technical side, working with film development techniques and eventually becoming a founding member of the camera club at Columbia. Upon graduation he was offered a job by Columbia economist Roy Stryker. Stryker had been asked by colleagues in the Roosevelt administration to form a group of documentary photographers to work within what eventually became known as the Farm Security Administration. In addition to Arthur Rothstein, the FSA photographers included Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, John Vachon and Marion Post Walcott, among others. Together they produced some of the defining images of the 20th century. Many of the works in this collection are among them.