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Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer Hardcover – June, 2002
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About the Author
Pierre Borhan is director of the Mission du Patrimonie Photographique in Paris, France. He lives in France.
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One of the best summaries of her work - highly recommended.
Dorothea Lange has now, rightly of course, achieved iconic artist status and a steady stream of photobooks continue to appear. Her work is studied by cultural commentators looking for new interpretations of photos that were originally just a straightforward record of how many Americans lived in the Depression and early war years. Though not touched on in this book she provided incidents that will keep the photo world talking: her retouching of Florence Thompson's thumb holding the tent flap in 'Migrant Mother' (Stryker totally disapproved) or the dropping of a black object to attract the attention of a little girl in one of a the series of photos about a homeless family on the road in Oklahoma during June 1938.
The six essays in the book give an overview of her life including a very good one about 'An American Exodus', the 1939 photobook she compiled with husband, Paul Taylor (still available as a paperback reprint). The photos are spread between the essays and if I have a criticism it is that they are not divided into visual chapters. The sixty-eight FSA ones run on from others taken in the thirties. The eight from the Manzanar assignment run into the fifteen from the San Francisco Second Gold Rush series. Assignments dealing with the American Country Women, Irish Country People and The Public Defender likewise run together. The thirteen from the Defender series I thought particularly interesting and I'm not aware of this many being published before. Originally a 1955 commission from Life magazine that eventually took nearly two years but was not used by the weekly.
I think 'Dorothea Lange' is a stunning looking book of photos that can hardly be improved on.
A quality piece of work: grey cloth over hardback boards with a sewn binding in a heavy dustcover. Heavy stock. Large format. 263 pp. 4.5 pounds. End Notes. Bibliography.
B&w illustrations throughout, many full page. Prose pieces by Borhan, A.D. Coleman, Sam Stourdze, and Ralph Gibson: "Destiny and Determination," "A Photographer in History," "Dust in the Wind: The Legacy of Dorothea Lange and Paul Schuster Taylor's An American Exodus," "Homage to Reality," and "The Destiny of a Strong-Willed Woman." (Of these, the most resonant is probably Stourdze's "Homage to Reality.")
Dorothea Lange was as much a sociologist and commentator on the human condition as she was a consummate photographer. She moved through the world of disenfranchised peoples with a tenderness and vision that was never cloying: honesty as captured in her famous photographs was also from her view of the people she sought to memorialize. Her contribution to the knowledge of the plight of the poor is unfathomable.
Yet given all of this, the power of page after page of her works form the massive archives of the Oakland Museum, including many works never before published in book form, makes a statement no words can match. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, March 05