Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dorothy Lange/ Photographer/Strong Women in Challenging Times

"When any woman honors herself, all women collectively move closer to becoming what they are truly capable of being. 
" This quote comes from an on line site about positive thinking.   I am not sure who to attribute it to on the site, but it is a strong statement about women and human beings in so many ways.

Dorothy Lange truly embodied this quote with her life and career as a woman photographer.  As in Louise Nevelson's life we again see a woman born in a time when society and culture do not honor their contributions in the arts because they were women.  Dorothy struggled and overcame many of the negative societal  attitudes about the ability of women to succeed in a male dominated field.  Her images of the depression scream out to us today of hopelessness, poverty, and despair.  
I am forever impressed with individuals from this generation of depression and two wars, but women in particular.  They had to be made of stern stuff and be resilient survivors.  
Dorothy was truly one of these exceptional women from her generation.  She had polio had a young age and walked with a limp the rest of her life.  She turned it into a positive by walking with distinction and walk people remembered.  She studied photography at Columbia University and New York School of Photography.  She married a well known painter of the time, Maynard Dixon.  They had two children, both boys.  She later divorced and remarried a professor by the name of Paul Taylor who was an economist and interested in poverty and the plight of sharecroppers.  
In turn she and her camera turned their eye on the worst depression and poverty this country has ever seen. 

 Her most famous photograph is of a Mother and her two children who have no hope left and the desperation of extreme poverty has set in.  It is called Migrant Mother.   

" I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."  (This is from an interview in 1960 about her  famous photograph)

There is much more information to read about Lange's life and art work.  Linda Gordon authored a book called, Dorothy Lange, A Life Beyond Limits"

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