Working as a photography file clerk for the Farm Security Administration in 1936, Minnesotan John Vachon came under the spell of some of the finest photographers in the country who were hired by the government during the Great Depression years to document the lives of rural Americans. As part of his assignments, Vachon came to Dubuque in April 1940. His Dubuque series is part of the Museum’s permanent collection thanks to the generosity of Bill and Barbara Kruse.
The hallmark of Vachon’s style of photography is the portrayal of real people and places encountered on the street, unembellished by air brushing, staging, or other beautifying devices. Vachon became a staff photographer for Life magazine, where he worked from 1947 to 1949, and for over twenty-five years beginning in 1947 at Look magazine. When Look closed in 1971 he became a freelance photographer. He died in 1975 in New York at age 60.