Marion Post Wolcott

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Marion Post Wolcott was born in Montclair, New Jersey on June 7, 1910. She attended boarding school with her sister in Edgewood, Greenwich, and then studied modern dance and early childhood education at the New School in New York. Working in childcare in small neighbouring towns taught her much about the American class system, and the social impacts of the Depression. She travelled to Paris to focus on dance, and then studied child psychology at the University of Vienna.

After graduating in the 1930s, Wolcott returned to New York and pursued photography. She attended classes at the Photo League, where she met influential photographers Ralph Steiner and Paul Strand. Initially working as a freelance photographer for LIFE and the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, Wolcott encouraged Steiner to show her portfolio to the head of photography at FSA, Roy Stryker. He was impressed by her visceral approach to photographing personalities and moments, and hired her the FSA’s first full time woman photographer, working alongside the part-time photographer Dorothea Lange.

Wolcott photographed the effects of poverty in rural America, creating intimate and unmediated shots of workers, children, and minorities. She worked at the FSA until 1942. She continued to photograph wherever she travelled, capturing moments in both the Middle East and South America. In the late 1960s, Wolcott and her family lived in California, where she worked as a freelance photographer and concentrated on colour photographs.

Wolcott’s work has been exhibited at Santa Barbara Museum and at the Gibson Gallery in Seattle. During the last ten years of her life, she won the Oakland Museum’s Dorothea Lange Award, the National Press Photographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Society of Photographic Educator’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Her work was exhibited at Syracuse University in 1986, where she held a conference about Women in Photography.

Wolcott died at the age of 80 on November 24, 1990. Her documentary photographs remain vital for studying America and the Depression.