Friday, August 10, 2012

Dorothea Lange's America

© Dorothea Lange: Migrant Mother, 1936

"You force yourself to watch and wait. You accept all the discomfort and the disharmony. Being out of your depth is a very uncomfortable thing. You force yourself onto strange streets, among strangers. It may be very hot. It may be painfully cold. It may be sandy and windy and you say, ‘What am I doing here? What drives me to do this hard thing?’"

Dorothea Lange's America is a focused exhibition of original lifetime prints by the legendary documentary photographer Dorothea Lange. Highlighting this show are oversized exhibition prints of her seminal portraits from the Great Depression, including White Angel Breadline, Migratory Farm Worker, and, most famously, Migrant Mother – an emblematic picture that came to personify pride and resilience in the face of abject poverty in 1930s America.

Lange herself had known adversity early in life. At age 7 she was stricken with polio, which left her with a lifetime limp. And at age 12 her father disappeared from the scene, leaving an impoverished household behind. Every day she would ride the ferry with her mother from Hoboken to lower Manhattan, to a roiling working-class neighborhood teeming with immigrants. During that period Lange talked her way into photo courses with a range of teachers as diverse as Arnold Genthe and Clarence White.

In 1918 she moved to San Francisco where she befriended the photographers Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham, and, through them, the celebrated Western painter Maynard Dixon, who became her first husband. She soon opened a thriving portrait studio that catered to San Francisco’s professional class and monied elite. But with the crash of 1929 she found her true calling, as a peripatetic chronicler of the many faces of America, old and young, urban and rural, native-born and immigrant, as they dealt with unprecedented hardship, sometimes with resilience, often with despondence. Her immortal portraits seared these faces of the Depression era into America’s consciousness.

More Images


December- April 2012 Hunter Museum of American Art, TN

June - August 2012 Taubman Museum of Art, VA

August- October, 2012 University of Richmond Museums, VA

February - May 2013 Longmont Museum & Cultural Center, CO

June- August 2013 Edward Hopper House Art Center, NY

September 18- December 31, 2013 Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum, NY

February - May 2014 Bell County Museum, TX

June- August 2014 Alexandria Museum of Art, LA