Russell Lee Photographs Exhibit
On view Tuesday, January 9 through Thursday, February 8, 2024
This exhibit from Humanities Texas includes 37 black-and-white photographs by renowned documentary photographer Russell Lee, offering a rare glimpse into the remarkable images he produced between 1935 and 1977. These photos will be hung throughout the halls of Lee Elementary School, alongside the photos by Russell Lee that are on permanent display. This exhibit provides a unique opportunity for students and families to learn more about our school’s namesake and to view glimpses of life in Texas and around the world from the mid-20th century.
Russell Lee photography Family Day
January 20 | 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
This exhibit will feature dozens of Russell Lee photographs from 1935-1977 on loan from Humanities Texas.
Note these are in addition to the permanent Russell Lee photographs which are always on display at Lee Elementary.
Webinar: Russell Lee Photography
February 1 | 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Author Mary Jane Appel will present a free webinar for the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission titled “One of the Best States of All: Russell Lee’s Photographs of Texas, 1939-1959.” Please register in advance. The webinar will be recorded and all are invited to attend.
This program is supported by Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Who is Russell Lee?
Russell Lee was an American photographer and photojournalist, known for his work for the Farm Securities Administration during the Great Depression and for his ability to document the human condition in a very direct and immediate way. Photography was a tool for him to communicate his compassion and concern for people who were usually less fortunate than himself.
Lee was born in Illinois in 1903. His work took him all over the country and around the world, but in 1947 he moved to Austin and in 1965 he became the first professor of photography at the University of Texas. He lived just a couple of miles from what is now Russell Lee Elementary School. He died in 1986. In 2016, our school was renamed in his honor.
More about Russell Lee.
Russell Lee, circa 1942, photographer unknown.
What are the photographs on display around the school?
When Lee Elementary was renamed in 2016, about three dozen photos of and by Russell Lee were sponsored by families at the school and friends of Russell Lee, which hang on permanent display. Many of the selected photos were taken in Texas and feature children.
This winter, an exhibit of an additional three dozen photos is on loan from Humanities Texas. The exhibition draws from the archive that Russell Lee donated to the Briscoe Center for American History. This exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the remarkable images Lee produced in 1935 and 1936 when he first took up a camera, and goes on to highlight the vast body of his work from 1947 through 1977. The exhibition was created by the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and The University of Texas at Austin.
Russell Lee photographing a school session in Italy. Photographer unknown, 1960.
How can I see the photographs and learn more about Russell Lee?
On Saturday, January 20, Lee Elementary families, friends, and community members are invited to the Russell Lee Photography Fami-Lee Day, which will include activities for engaging directly with Lee’s photographs. The photos are on display around the school, with most of the Lee collection downstairs and most of the Humanities Texas exhibit upstairs.
On Thursday, February 1, at 6:00 p.m. CT, author Mary Jane Appel will present a free webinar for the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission titled “One of the Best States of All: Russell Lee’s Photographs of Texas, 1939-1959.” Please register in advance. The webinar will be recorded and all are invited to attend.