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Jack Delano

Barber shop in Bayamon, 1941

Jack Delano (1914-1997) was born Jacob Ovcharov in Kiev, Ukraine, but his family moved to Philadelphia when he was a young child. He took the name "Jack" from the boxer Jack Dempsey and "Delano" from a schoolmate. Delano began to study music and photography/graphic arts at the Settlement Music School. His natural talent and skill was recognized quickly and within four years of enrollment Delano was offered an art scholarship at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). After graduating, he was hired in 1940 as photographer for the Farm Security Administration Photography program. Delano and eight other photographers, including the legendary Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein, helped to visually document the devastation and anguish that was widespread across the country as a result of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. Delano was assigned the task of capturing the lives and working conditions of people living on the eastern seaboard and in Puerto Rico, where he permanently settled in 1946 after falling in love with the complex ethos of the island and its’ people.

With his wife Irene (a second cousin to fellow photographer, Ben Shahn) he worked in the Community Division of the Department of Public Education producing films and composing music. Delano directed Los Peloteros, a Puerto Rican film about poor rural children and their love for baseball. The film remains a classic in Puerto Rican cinema.