Art and Architecture, Biography, Film and Media, History, Reviews

Dorothea Lange’s forgotten photographs

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Having produced some of the most powerful images of Depression-era rural America, including the now iconic Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s documentary photography for the Farm Security Administration offers a profound (and timely) record of the devastating effects of the Depression, as well as American’s resilience in the face of hardship. But surprisingly, many of Lange’s photographs for the FSA, (and arguably some of her best) have remained hidden from the public eye, consigned to archives where they have languished for years, rarely seen. Now, in Anne Whiston Spirn’s recent Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field Lange’s never-before-published photos and captions from her fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939 can finally receive the exposure they merit.
Focusing on selections of photographs accompanied by field notes and citations strategically selected by Spirn, as a recent review in Bookforum notes, [Daring to Look] “presents a case study of Lange’s artistic agility”—the juxtapositions of image and text allowing readers to experience a diversity of voices and points of view, dismissing what reviewer Jordan Bear calls the “maudlin sentimentality” sometimes ascribed to Lange’s work.
And for a sampling of some of these images see this illustrated excerpt from the book. Read Jordan Bear’s full review on the Bookforum website.