This black-and-white photograph shows several black men leaning against and sitting atop a wooden bench.

Negro day laborers brought in by truck from nearby towns waiting to be paid off for cotton picking and buy supplies inside plantation store. Friday night, Marcella Plantation, Mileston, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi

Marion Post Wolcott

Negative 1939, printed 1973-1978

Between 1938 and 1942, Marion Post Wolcott traveled thousands of miles as a photographer for the federal government’s Farm Security Administration, taking more than 9,000 photographs documenting the lives of Americans hardest hit by the Great Depression. This is one of a group of images made by Wolcott to chronicle the lives of cotton pickers in the Mississippi Delta. Captured in a moment of repose, the image does not give a sense of the backbreaking work performed by these young laborers. Sometimes it was beauty, not suffering, that Wolcott tried to capture with her camera. It was the effortless beauty of the workers’ natural poses that caught her attention. Years later, she recalled that what she saw and wanted to shoot  “was how elegant they were without really knowing it.”