May 26th is the birthday of Dorothea Lange. She was a documentary photographer best know for the work she did during the Depression under contract with the Farm Security Administration ( FSA.)
This image, from 1936, is of Florence Owen Thompson and her 2 children. Entitled "Migrant Mother" it's Lange's most well known work.
It's likely you first encountered it when studying the Depression. Perhaps it burned into you, as it did to me.
Or maybe it was this one - White Angle Bread Line, San Francisco - 1933 - that hit you hard.
Her images told the truth about the plight of those most affected by the Depression; the farmers, the migrant laborers. Because they were distributed free to newspapers across the country, people all over America saw the same story unfold. Thus the images served not only to tell a story but to help unify the country to take action, or at the very least support action, to aid those most in need. Of course you're never going to get full agreement on any social programs, even during the Depression, but Lange's work was instrumental in strengthening national support for President Roosevelt's WPA and the nearly 8 million jobs it provided.
In 1941 Lange was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship but, after the US entered WWII, she gave it up to record the internment of Japanese Americans in relocation camps like the one in Manzanar, CA. She was on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA) but her pictures were so obviously critical of the entire situation that The Army impounded them and they were not widely seen.
Boy With Baseball Bat, Manzanar, 1942
The political genius of this picture is hard to overstate.
In 1952 Dorothea Lange, along with photographers Ansel Adams, Barbara Morgan and Minor White, founded Aperture, a foundation dedicated to promoting photography. Aperture began by publishing a quarterly periodical. The foundation started publishing books in the 1960s and opened a Chelsea gallery in 2005.
Lange was also a photography teacher. A frequent class assignment was to " shoot where you live." Challenged once by a student to shoot where she lived, Dorethea came back with pictures of her own foot, disfigured and often painful due to the polio she had contracted when she was a young girl. For all her world traveling, all the suffering and beauty her eyes saw and photographed, this was where she lived.
After hearing this story, told by Linda Gordon in her book Dorothea Lange, A Life Beyond Limits I was inspired to do the assignment myself. Bearing in mind that I can't take pictures of the inside of my own head here are 2 attempts-
This picture, taken a few weeks ago, is only very slightly composed. It's my kitchen, my tiny island, and this is what it usually looks like. The flowers, beloved old-fashioned roses from the farmer's market, are my birthday present to myself. Their petals had fallen just that way and I left them until they were scattered by my cats. That's my purse in its resting place, right next to a stack of mail and a bag holding a gift for a friend Those are my pots and pans, scissors, knives. A peek of dish towels. In the background my favorite reading spot, above it a much loved painting by a Native America Artist called Marcus Caldwell. He uses traditional Navajo imagery, Americana and real bingo cards his grandmother played at the casino on the reservation. Beyond - 2 doors, one set opening to my garden, one to my laundry. You can see a bath-mat drying over the top of the door.
Another accurate picture of where I live would be the front seat of my car.
Yep, 100,000 miles and it shows, sudoko addiction, coffee cup and coffee spills down the side of what ever you call that middle part, my hat, my ghosts of those who have been in the passenger seat.
OBVIOUSLY I'm not comparing my pictures to Dorothea Lange. Please, people. But I do love the idea of the "where do you live assignment."
Where do you live? I'd love to see.
Dodgers Go Station To Station, Can't Come Home
2 hours ago