Georgia road sign
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Dorothea Lange's life on the road wasn't all solemn images of the Great Depression. In her travels, Lange photographed quite a few interesting signs, both manufactured and hand-painted, in between images of migrant workers and their struggles. This particular sign, found on a Georgia roadside in 1937, has been on our radar for quite some time. Its graphic hand-painted lettering and seemingly confident misspelling lends it a quirky sense of humor. Was the sign-maker letting drivers know there was tasty food to be found down the way or warning them about meat thieves? Did HAMBUGLARS mean something in the 1930s that we're unaware of today? The possibilities are endless and certainly amusing to consider.
The road sign series is a bit of a surprise to find among the more well-known and somber photographs in Dorothea Lange's body of work. But humor could be, and was, found, even in the country's darkest times, and that's always something to celebrate.
Dorothea Lange | See All Editions
Dorothea Lange was an American photographer most famous for her photography of agricultural workers and their migration during the Great Depression. Her most famous photograph is the iconic, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (1936), which endures as the defining image of the era. In 1941 she was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and this allowed her to take a series of photographs of religious groups in the USA, such as those of the Amish people.
From 1914 to 1917 she attended the New York Training School for Teachers and there decided to become a photographer, partly influenced by visits to the photographer Arnold Genthe. From 1917 to 1918 she attended a photography course run by Clarence H. White at Columbia University, NY. Lange moved to San Francisco in 1918, and in 1919 she set up a successful portrait studio where she took works such as Clayburgh Children, San Francisco. In the late 1920s she became dissatisfied with studio work and experimented with landscape and plant photography, although she found the results unsatisfactory.
With the Stock Market crash of 1929 Lange decided to look for subjects outside her studio. Turning to the effects of the economic decline she took photographs like General Strike, San Francisco. She had her first one-woman show at the Brockhurst Studio of Willard Van Dyke in Oakland, CA in 1934, and in the same year met the economist Paul Schuster Taylor, under whom she worked for the California State Emergency Relief Administration in 1935.
Later in 1935 she transferred to the Resettlement Administration, set up to deal with the problem of the migration of agricultural workers. She continued to work for this body, through its various transformations (including its time as the Farm Security Administration), until 1942. In 1939, in collaboration with Taylor, who provided the text, she published An American Exodus, of her portraits of migrant workers. In 1942 she worked for the War Relocation Authority and from 1943 to 1945 for the Office of War Information in San Francisco. Illness prevented her working from 1945 to 1951, after which she produced photographs of the Mormons and of rural life in Ireland for articles in Life in 1954 and 1955. In the late 1950's and early 1960s she worked with Taylor in East Asia, South America, Egypt, and the Middle East.
-Oxford University Press
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