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Katherine Joseph
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Jennifer Rabin

Katherine Joseph, "Washing Day, Outskirts of Mexico City," 1941, photograph. © Richard Hertzberg and Suzanne Hertzberg. Courtesy of the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Continuing through September 25, 2016

During a short career as a photojournalist in the first half of the twentieth century, Katherine Joseph photographed presidents, dignitaries, and movie stars, but her most affecting work in this retrospective is her documentation of the U.S. labor force under Roosevelt’s New Deal. As staff photographer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, Joseph captured the dignity of work during the golden age of unionized labor. 

Her black-and-white compositions are intimate, drawing our attention to small moments like that of a man alone, on bended knee, in a sun-drenched warehouse changing out a spool of thread on an industrial loom. Another photo features two men in pinstriped suits smiling across a table from one another, each at his own sewing machine, laying down miles of stitches over chalked patterns. A close-cropped image of a woman’s hands sewing a button onto a wool coat, her thimble in shadow, conveys the pride taken in the simplest tasks, of the untold details required to outfit America’s workers, of a time that has long since vanished.

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