New Art: Get Schooled on the Legendary Lange
9:00 a.m. Four Pupils Attend This Day. Baker County, Oregon by Dorothea Lange
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240)
We're back-to-schooling ourselves here at 20x200 HQ with a delightful deep dive into History of Photography 101, soaking up everything we can about Dorothea Lange's life and photographs as we continue to release new editions of her work. That's got us all super-giddy (in a total photo nerd kinda way) to check out Grab a Hunk of Lightning, the new PBS documentary by Lange's granddaughter Dyanna Taylor.
Looking at her massive body of work, we find so much of Lange's passion in the Oregon photographs she made at the very end of the 1930s. As she set out for Oregon in 1939, her style was shifting, as was the nation's. Nowhere will you find the “unobtrusive camera” sometimes associated with documentary photography. Instead, there is a personal poignancy in these quiet photographs of remote, small towns. For Lange, photography had been cemented as the tool to shape—and share—her vision of the world.
In 9:00 a.m. Four Pupils Attend This Day. Baker County, Oregon, one child looks back at Dorothea Lange, shyly, but full of curiosity, and likely aware of how lucky he was to be there at all. In the rural Oregon of this era, few children had the privilege of attending school. Most worked the fields at small family farms alongside their parents, and with state funding for schools being cut back, teachers and classrooms were few and far between. That context imbues this image with a sense of wonder and hope. The future and the past rest in this room, along with curiosity and tenderness.
Detail of Barn, Irrigon, Morrow County, Oregon by Dorothea Lange
10"x8" ($24) | 14"x11" ($60) | 20"x16" ($240) | 30"x24" ($600)
In Detail of Barn, Irrigon, Morrow County, Oregon, there’s a threatening, Malevich-style black square emerging below the barn’s widow’s peak, leading your eyes down into the depths of the nearly empty hay loft. You might not have seen the emptiness at first, but that angle leads you to see the farm’s meager output. With so much emotion in this document of a simple structure, the art in Lange’s Oregon photograph shines through. Her deft ability to define space and create abstraction is also present in much of her work, and many of her images carry the language of Modernism with them. Although widely known as a documentary photographer, her artistic achievements did not go unnoticed. In fact, Dorothea Lange was offered a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art toward the end of her life.
A single photographic print may be ‘news,’ a “portrait,’ ‘art,’ or ‘documentary’—any of these, all of them, or none. —Dorothea Lange
No matter what Lange photographed, her style remained consistent throughout: sharp angles, deep perspective, dramatic natural lighting. Each one contains an epiphany about what you’re looking at. She wanted you to see what would otherwise go unnoticed, speaking about magnificence and wretchedness in the same image. She was gutsy, always daring to break rules, and let the details tell the story.
Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning includes the moving footage of Lange speaking about her photographs, and seeks to dispel myths about Lane’s life and art. Her camera was both muse and master, and her obsession with her work often took her away from her home and family. The film is a both a celebration of someone truly passionate about her art and an exploration of how that passion made her imperfect, ruling over every aspect of her life.
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200