Depression-era middle America got it’s due face-time thanks to photographer Dorothea Lange who left studio portraiture shortly after the stock market crashed to document the tragic consequences brought about by the depression. Hailing from Hoboken, New Jersey, the photo-journalist took the collective pulse of an ailing nation during the 30s thanks, in great part, to a commission by the Farm Security Administration who subsequently distributed the images free to newspapers across the country. Lange’s photographs brought home the weight of a depressed nation — a weight carried most by sharecroppers, displaced farm families & migrant workers whose livelihood relied on a healthy nation’s demand for their products & work.
What’s most amazing, however, isn’t just the photographs themselves which in their own right are skillfully shot. It’s the people in them. There’s something timeless about her images. Perhaps there’s something else all too real that resonates with us in a way that social media’s primped and posed photos can’t. Somehow, Lange managed to communicate through her images the challenges thrust upon middle America while capturing an incredible sense of resilience, pride & humility in those she photographed.
With that, we’re also intrigued by how Lange’s work would be viewed & shared today with the help (or detriment) of social media & sites like Tumblr & Instagram — either way, we’re guessing she’d have one hell of a following despite Istagram’s apparent obsession with One Direction & side boob.
Lange never went out to exploit those she photographed like Hollywood’s modern-day money-hungry paparazzi desperate to find a shot of any A-lister who fell on hard times, she instead hoisted her subjects up for the world to see inspiring & influencing countless photo-journalists & documentary photographers who follow in her shadow. Sadly, much of their incredible work is now overshadowed by Perez Hilton, Us Weekly & TMZ all of whom continue to feed the money-hungry paparazzi. And yup. We eat it up. We rarely hoist those up who fall on hard times — instead we pass judgement, make assumptions, brush them off.
Sure, it’s not our place to preach, but instead of taking comfort in the immediate judgement & assumption of those around you, take a moment to try & look at them the way Dorothea Lange might have done.
Without judgement, without assumption.
(Originally posted 04.20.2011 / Updated 06.24.13)