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An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion Paperback – October 15, 1999
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In the back of the book there are two essays, one by Sam Stourdze, is an excellent explanation of how Lange and Taylor compiled the book. The sales fell well short of their expectations and Stourdze comments "the rigor of its approach, the verism of its oral testimony and the radicality of its photographs were hardly designed to have mass appeal" Quite right I think, having looked through the book many times I don't think the powerful photos are backed up by adequate captions. All the photos are anonymous, even the ones with people, and surely any reader would want to know who are these folk, what is their story? This information was available because Lange took detailed notes on all her photographic assignments. It's as if the author's thought the only way they could put their point across was in an abstract way and ignore the very human turmoil the photos clearly show. In 1937 photographer Margaret Bourke-White and writer Erskine Caldwell compiled a similar photo book about the living conditions of the desperately poor rural underclass, called `You Have Seen Their Faces' (reissued as a paperback in 1995) but here the photos and captions blend together better.
'An American Exodus' is a book of remarkable photos and well worth having if you are interested in America during the Depression years. BTW, the book reproduces the back dust jacket of the original and the New York publisher, Reynal & Hitchcock, list other "Vital books of our Time" and for three bucks you could buy 'Mein Kampf' by Adolf Hitler, "The blueprint of the Nazi program by the man who is shaking the world. No American should miss it".
***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
'In this stunning -- and sobering -- pictorial record, the covered wagon of '39 streams westward, bearing its broken human freight from old and tired land toward that beckoning horizon where the blue perpetually begins. With an impact at once as gentle as the click of a camera shutter and as brutal as a Vigilante's fist, it lays bare, for all to see and ponder, the story of the mightiest exodus of a people in modern times.
Migration is not new in America. A century ago the French traveler de Toqueville found Americans moving steadily westward with "the solemnity of a providential event...like a deluge of men rising unabatedly, and daily driven onward by the hand of God."
Once more the dispossessed of the earth trek to towns and ciies and to the West, impelled by powerful forces of man and nature. Land depletion, the greed of great owners, mechanized farming, the catastrophe of drought and dust storms have made them homeless wanderers.
This contemporary exodus is the theme of this book. It attains the most dramatic form on the deltas, the prairies, and the plains of the South, and in the tides of people which move to the Pacific Coast. But it is almost universal and it is an urgent national problem to which attention has already been directed by John Steinbeck's 'The Grapes of Wrath.'
In this book, the living participants in this tragic drama speak for themselves, in accents so plain that none can mistake their meaning. Rarely has the camera been used so beautifully and effectively as a documentary tool to convey understanding easily, clearly, and vividly. And the text provides a background for a sharp focus on this great human story which is being played out today before our eyes."
Dorothea Lange credits photographers Ansel Adams and Ron Partridge for the help they have lent her.
Paul Schuster Taylor sites the following writers, whose quotations have been used in the book:
Rupert B. Vance
Arthur F. Raper
M. L. Wilson and Ray Bowden
J. Russell Smith
Reynal & Hitchcock, N.Y., 1939 (lst ed.)
158 pages - 7.75" x 10.25" - with Black and White Photographs