Arthur Rothstein was born in New York in 1915. While attending Columbia University in the 1930s, he studied photography and was greatly inspired by his mentors, Roy Stryker and Rex Tugwell. Stryker invited Rothstein to be the first photographer to join the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) photojournalism project. The FSA employed a small group of photographers, including Mary Post Wolcott, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn, to publicize the conditions of the impoverished rural areas of the United States.
In 1936 Rothstein took an assignment documenting the Dust Bowl area of the Midwestern United States. In Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Rothstein took one of his most famous photographs that became emblematic of the Depression period. It was called “Fleeing a Dust Storm.” His photographs of this period displayed a gritty reality of life in America.
In 1940 Rothstein joined the staff of Look magazine. With the start of the Second World War, Rothstein once again completed photojournalistic assignments for the government in China, Burma, and India. After the war he returned to Look, and worked as the Director of Photography until the magazine closed in 1971. He then held the same position for Parade magazine. Rothstein was a multi-dimensioned photographer. As he continued his own work, he also taught at several schools, authored seven photography books, and invented the X-O-Graph printing process.