Jeff Morgan, Jeff.Morgan@iowa.gov, (515)
(DES MOINES) – From
1925 to 1960, A.M. “Pete” Wettach captured the essence of rural Iowa
His celebrated work will
go on display November 17, 2005, at the State Historical Museum in Farm Life
in Iowa: Photographs by A.M. Wettach, an exhibit organized by the University
of Iowa Museum of Art and containing photographs from the collection of the State
Historical Society of Iowa.
The exhibit features 52
black-and-white photographs taken by Wettach (1901-1976) from 1925 to 1960, 35
of the most revolutionary years for farming as a way of life in Iowa. The exhibition
is a reflection of the past generation of Iowa farmers and the consequences of
the philosophies and events that affected their lives.
Wettach's photographs provide
historical evidence of farming advances in Iowa and honor traditions that stressed
independence and self–sufficiency. His subjects included obsolete farming
methods such as planting corn with a check wire and buck rake, haymaking, handy
gadgets, and poignant portraits of farmers and their families. Through six decades,
Wettach took some 60,000 photographs, many with a Graflex camera that used 5-
by 7-inch negatives. His photos recorded the daily lives of Iowa farm families
in the mid-20th century and are a visual history of life on the farm during the
Depression, World War II and the post-war years.
In addition to providing
portraits of men, women and children at work on the farm, the Wettach collection
catalogs the farming methods, crops, animals, machinery, tools, field work and
day-to-day tasks of the family farm. His photos tell a straightforward and realistic
story about farm households, family life, community activities, and the roles
of men, women and children in a rural society that has disappeared from the landscape.
The images also document the changes in farm life brought about by the "new"
innovations and technology of each decade. Because the photos span decades, this
exhibit is in part a documentary of the social and technological changes in farming
across the years
“Here we have an
Iowa man, going out as a loan officer for the Farm Security Administration, and
taking the opportunity of his travels to capture some of the most revealing images
of the era,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Anita Walker said.
“His ability to capture the determination and pride of Iowa farm families
is not equaled. The images he was able to preserve will forever tell the rich
stories of an important time in Iowa’s farming heritage.”
While employed by the Farm
Security Administration, and for more than 20 years after, Wettach worked out
of his home in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as a freelance photographer. His photographs
appeared in Wallaces’ Farmer, Farm Journal, National
Geographic and The Saturday Evening Post.
The exhibition was curated
by Kathleen A. Edwards, curator of prints, drawings, photographs and new media
at the UI Museum of Art. The large-format photographs were printed by Steven Tatum,
UI Museum of Art photographer, from Wettach’s original negatives. More than
10,000 negatives taken by Wettach are housed at the State Historical Society of
Iowa offices in Iowa City. Farm Life in Iowa is funded by the General
Education Fund of the University of Iowa through the Office of the Provost.
“For Iowans, living
in a state where 90 percent of the land is still farmed, Wettach’s photographs
are invaluable historic records and part of a common visual memory linking the
past to the present,” Walker said.
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