Jack Delano: the compassionate eye

Jack Delano, together with Dorothea Lange and Eugene Smith, were my inspirations to become a photographer. Their uncanny ability to see into the human soul to tell a deeper human story helped me see the power of the image not to just capture how things looks like but what they mean.

They believed, as I do, in the power of images to improve the lives of the people they were committing to history. But for that you need to have a special sensitivity that is not acquired in the classroom nor books, but by getting out there and experiencing life.

The photographs serve as a timely reminder of who we were, the places we have been, our relationships, important events and people, all essential elements on the formation of character and personality.

They taught me the difference between Photojournalism, with its emphasis in the moment and documentary photography, which is the search for the essence of the event or the person. I love doing both, but mostly love the storytelling power of photographs.

Movies touch our emotions by action, but a photograph allows you to linger around the elements of the image taking in every detail to savor its visual fragrance.

He was among a small army of artists and photographers that Roy Stryker, the visionary director of the Historical Section of the Farm Security Administration, sent all over America to document the ravages of the Great Depression and the promise of the New Deal. In less than ten years they produced over 250,000 images.

His family immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1923 and Jack grew up in Philadelphia. He was multitalented, a renaissance man. Throughout his life he had made films, painted, composed music, taught at the University of Puerto Rico, but his passion was photography.

He was sensitive to human suffering deeply affected by the wretched conditions around him as the Great Depression began to be felt in the country and deeply believed that artists had an obligation to use their talents for social change.

In 1941 he took a trip that would finally deliver him and his wife to what will become home for the rest of his days, Puerto Rico. He loved our island and its people so much that he became Puertorrican by choice, not by birth.