Letters to Roy Stryker from MPW



Several times when I’ve had the car parked alongside the road, taking pix nearby, a cop or state trooper has come up, watched me, examined the camera and searched thru the car, and questioned and looked at all my identification, etc.  I’ve had to visit more than one sheriff’s office …and go through the same routine, but the worst of it is the time they consume…. They haven’t anything else to do and they don’t feel like working anyway—it’s too hot, and they think you’re crazy anyhow.     Letter to Roy Stryker,

Driving at night is definitely not a good idea for a gal alone in the South.  And you know I’m no sissy….Everything closes up, including gas stations, and everyone goes to bed.  The only ones who stay up are bums…If anything goes wrong you’re out of luck and no one understands a girl out alone after dark.  The roads are awful and often one must go back and try another way, or walk across the field and muck because the car is too low.
      Letter to RS, July 1939

 Be sure to let me know if there’s any dust, etc., in the negatives.  It’s an awful struggle to keep this black muck out of the cameras and film.  I keep everything covered and wrapped and brush and clean everything several times a day and every nite.  By the time I get that done, my film loaded, the car brushed out, my clothes shaken out, my underwear scrubbed, the muck out of my hair and ears and nose and neck and arms and feet—it itches so!—there’s not much time left for reading.
     Letter to RS, January 1939

…My God and All the Saints!  MORE RAIN!  The other day I got caught in such a storm (small hurricane) when the rain and wind blew so hard that the telephone poles along the road went down one after another in a line just like the Rockettes….  And now thee are rumors of floods—Well, I need my feet washed anyway.
    Letter to RS, July 1940

Some said they didn’t understand why I was riding around in that kind of country and roads all alone.  A couple thought I was a gypsy—maybe others did, too—because my hair was so "long and heavy" and I had a bandana scarf on my head and brightly colored dress and coat.  All of which I remedied immediately, but it didn’t seem to help.  All the things in the car seemed to awe them, too.
    Letter to RS December 23 1938

In West Carroll Parish, LA, I did a whole series on a rehabilitation family who has beeon th program 5 years.  Poor things.) And just to celebrate the annivesary properly, there were FIVE SUPERVISORS along, too!  And, I told Delano how to ditch them!!  ….I almost got into a serious row with the home supervisor.  She got very red and mad.  Nuts!

I’m gong to put on very dark glasses and hang a typhoid fever sign on my front and back and dare anyone to come near me.  Whether or not it’s very obvious that one is working, there are always a million blokes who want you to either teach them photography, explain the mechanics of your and their cameras, or else they’re sure they have some valuable information concerning the country.
    Letter to RS February 24 1939

It takes time, Roy, but you’ll see that it’s worth it.  Talking and listening to people, going back again to persuade them, or returning when the one…who objects to pictures will surely not be home…or when the light is right.

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