This picture, by Arthur Rothstein, was taken in April of 1936 in Cimarron County, Oklahoma (Library of Congress, 2008). Rothstein took this photo while in Boise City, Oklahoma on an assignment for Roy Stryker, of the federal government’s Farm Security Administration, to document the severity of the storms and devastation they brought. About 14 miles south of Boise City, Rothstein came across Art Coble digging out fence post from a sand drift. Rothstein chatted with him and his two sons, Milton and Darrel, snapped a few pictures and was getting back into his car when the wind suddenly picked up.
Looking back he saw them bending into the storm, he pointed his camera and clicked (WGBH, 2013). “I was about to get into my car when I turned to wave to [Coble and his two sons],” Rothstein later remembered. “And I looked and saw this man bending into the wind, with one of the boys in front of him and another one behind him, and great swirls of sand all around, which made the sky and the earth become one. And I said, ‘What a picture this is! ‘ and I just picked up my camera and went ‘click. One photograph, one shot, one negative. ” (PBS , 2012). This photo has become one of the most widely published photographs of the dust bowl era. This image helped to make Rothstein one of America’s most influential photojournalist. This photo depicts the struggle for life and the desolate land that was left after the Dust Bowl. In this photo there is a feeling of lost hope, fear for the future, and a longing for the past. One can only imagine what Art Coble planned for himself and his son’s in light of the future.
Instead of abandoning their land, the Cobles remained living there, enduring the circumstances (Carter Museum, 2003). This picture precipitated great change. Photos like this one put pressure on the government to offer aid to many of the tenants who were struggling to survive after the Dust Bowl. In the photo it can be seen that the dust storm has created a moon like world of little to no life. The shed is damaged and the fence posts are half buried making this property virtually worthless to its owners.
The land no longer could be worked and the farm houses were uninhabitable. Overall, the impact of Rothstein’s “Farmer Walking into Dust Storm” is still seen today. This image is evidence to an eye opening experience felt by many Americans during the 1930’s. The Dust Bowl uprooted many families from the land they had worked for years and forced them to start over elsewhere. Rothstein, along with the other FSA photographers, can be credited with revealing the horrible conditions many faced and putting pressure on the government to offer aid to those in need.