Depression Era Photo Essay

Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets.Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education, 1942. 210-G-C122 © Dorothea Lange This responsibility effortlessly parallels with Lange’s own impetus to expose the darker side of America, which is the main throughline coursing through the exhibition, reflected in each selected print and archival object as well as the title of the retrospective itself.

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Regarding Lange’s legacy, associations with such an iconic image have simultaneously been a blessing and a curse.

While the photographer’s name remains a bolded marker in the history of the medium, her career is often overshadowed by the single photograph, leaving far less room for knowledge of her greater oeuvre and impressive pursuits.

Her method was more interdisciplinary, and the retrospective pays particular attention to her practice of blending images with text.

“She was a trailblazing pioneer in her photographs, but her field notes also reveal how she championed an investigative approach to her work,” says Pardo.

She was principled and defiant and tireless in her pursuit of seeking justice, and I think we have a responsibility to show how that work is still relevant today.

As an art institution, we don’t necessarily have a duty to educate, but we do have a duty to inform.” San Francisco, California.What Dorothea is trying to get across in her work is the unfairness of social policy, which was not only hindering the white working class, but was also adversely affecting the African-American sharecroppers.She was commissioned by the FSA to take these photographs; she was not meant to be photographing American Filipinos or Mexican workers or African-American sharecroppers, but she does anyways.She explains, “I often think photography is a reflection of the external world, and will therefore comment on and critique historical social discourses.As a public institution, we have a duty to raise public awareness of these issues.“Dorothea felt that seeing the world was a political act.Photographing, for her, was always the politics of seeing.She was constantly going out and photographing the full spectrum of people on this migratory route.” Considering how Americans and refugees continue to suffer from racialized mistreatment today, the current exhibition of Lange’s work feels particularly timely.“A lot of the welfare and social reforms prevalent today date back to the Depression era,” Pardo notes.Broadening Lange’s narrative and contextualizing magazine, first edition copies of breakthrough publications, and Lange’s own field notes and letters.The exhibition begins with a selection of Lange’s pictorial portraits made throughout the 1920s.


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