Marion Post Wolcott was born in Montclair, New Jersey, and educated at the New School for Social Research, New York University, and at the University of Vienna. Upon graduation in 1932, she returned to New York to pursue a career in photography and attended workshops with Ralph Steiner. By 1936, she was a freelance photographer for Life, Fortune, and other magazines. She became a staff photographer for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin in 1937 and remained there until Paul Strand recommended her to Roy Stryker at the Farm Security Administration, where she worked from 1938 to 1942. Wolcott suspended her photographic career thereafter in order to raise her family, but continued to photograph periodically as she traveled and taught, in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, and New Mexico. In 1968 she returned to freelance photography in California and concentrated on color work, which she had been producing in the early 1940s. Wolcott’s photographs have been included in group and solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in 1962, ICP, and elsewhere. Among other honors she has received are the Dorothea Lange Award, and the 1991 Society of Photographic Education’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The several books on her life and career include Paul Henrickson’s Looking for the Light: The Hidden Life of Marion Post Wolcott (1992).
Wolcott’s documentary photographs for the FSA are notable for their variation in subject matter. Because she joined the organization late in its existence, Stryker often gave her assignments intended to complete projects already begun by others. Wolcott’s photographs show wealthy and middle-class subjects in addition to the poor people and migrant workers who appeared in most FSA photographs. Her body of work provides a view into another side of the 1930s in America, among that small percentage of people who could afford to escape the damaging effects of the Depression.