Edwin Rosskam Munich, Germany, 1903-1985


Edwin Rosskam was a Jewish-American freelance photographer and writer, born  

in Munich, Germany to American parents. He came to Philadelphia, PA in 1919, when he was in his late teens. Rosskam aspired to be an artist and took up painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine. That is where his interest in photography began. Rosskam joined the Farm Security Administration as a photojournalist, working under Roy Stryker. He travelled extensively with his wife Louise, also a photographer for the Farm Security Administration and Standard Oil of New Jersey. Pay Day for Mechanical Crew (1943) is part of the photography project of Standard Oil, where the company commissioned photographers to depict the benefits of oil on American life between the years 1943-1956. He and his wife photographed life on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and were later employed by the government of Puerto Rico for a rural education program. In addition to photography, Rosskam assisted in the layout and production of documentary books and wrote a novel in 1964 called The Alien, based on his experiences in Puerto Rico.


Rosskam collaborated with Stryker, Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, and John Vachon. In the 1930s, he selected photographs for documentary books. In 1939, he contributed to the text and edited photographs for Washington:Nerve Center, a look at the capital. He collaborated with novelist Richard Wright in 1941 on 12 Million Black Voices, a folk history of Blacks in America.  In 1948, he collaborated with his wife on Towboat River, a book of pictures and text detailing life on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.