A new look at Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs

September 9, 2008
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Both the Times Higher Education and the New Yorker‘s book blog, the Book Bench have recently published positive reviews of Anne Whiston Spirn’s, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field. Book Bench contributor Eliza Honey writes:

Daring to Look is a collection of photographs, many of them previously unpublished, taken by Dorothea Lange, in 1939, for the Farm Security Administration. Though Lange’s shots of Depression-era individuals and families are well known, many of her negatives of empty home interiors have spent the past decades in archives, until Anne Whiston Spirn, the editor of this volume, unearthed them. Like Lange’s portraits, her interiors are gentle reflections of a quiet and stark way of life.
Though the book looks deceivingly like it’s meant for a coffee table, Spirn’s accompanying text reveals much more. It’s so engrossing, in fact, that, had the book not been so heavy, I would have taken it to the park during my lunch break.

And from the THE:

This first presentation of Lange’s 1939 photographs with their accompanying texts provides a very valuable scholarly resource. Spirn’s personal contribution, for anyone interested in Lange, comes in the third and final section, which both brings us up to date and reflects upon history, as she photographs sites and descendants of Lange’s 1939 subjects.
From her broad knowledge base and sympathetic understanding of the history of the locale, Spirn offers a rich study of past and present life and landscape.

Read the rest of the Book Bench review, or read the THE review.
Also see this illustrated excerpt from the book.

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