Russell Werner Lee (1903-1986) was born in Ottawa, Illinois and graduated from Lehigh University in 1925 with a degree in engineering. In 1935 Lee began to experiment with a camera and to photograph miners and record conditions in Pennsylvania coalmines. His growing interest in social issues and his affinity for photography as a means of recording social conditions brought him in contact with other visual artists, among them Pare Lorentz and Ben Shahn, whose work he admired. He heard that Shahn was involved with the documentation program of the Historic Division of the Resettlement Administration, later renamed the Farm Security Administration, headed by Roy Stryker. As part of the team that also included Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein and Walker Evans, Lee's primary task was to document rural communities with the goal of making urban Americans aware of the plight of tenant farmers, sharecroppers, and migrant workers stricken by drought and the Great Depression.