Pennsylvania Coal Miner–The Bitter Years #8

Pennsylvania Coal Miner by John Collier, exhibited in Steichen's The Bitter Years.

While The Bitter Years was an exhibition of over 200 images of rural America intended to illustrate the poverty and desperation of the time, this image by John Collier, Jr. was taken during a project with a very different purpose, which Collier described briefly in a 1965 interview at his home.1

“Finally, I was sent to the coal fields of Pittsburgh, not that there were any documents to show poverty, but to photograph the most modern way to get coal out of the ground. And I spent a murky month in Pittsburgh working in the coal mines doing a highly technological job of recording culture underground. It was a very exciting experience. It still was far a field from my involvement. I preferred that assignment; it was a truly typical one, an exciting one.”

The Bitter Years, in 1962, was Edward Steichen’s last exhibition as Director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The images in the exhibition were personally selected by Steichen from 270,000 photos taken for the Farm Security Administration by a team of photographers employed between 1935 and 1941 to document (primarily) rural America during the Great Depression.

Image located and snipped by online search September 5, 2016 from…

This image was taken by John Collier when he was working for the Farm Services Administration and is in the public domain.


  1. An interview with John Collier at his home on Muir Beach, Sausalito, California; January 18, 1965. The interviewer is Richard K. Doud. – American Suburb X, Accessed September 5, 2016
america, american history, photography, the bitter years

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