Video: Dorothea Lange: “Grab a Hunk of Lightning”

Video: Dorothea Lange: “Grab a Hunk of Lightning”, American Masters, PBS

This video is a documentary about Dorothea Lange, the photographer who took one of the most iconic photographic images in American History: “The Migrant Mother” during the 1930’s depression.  Our reading selection from last April, Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver was a novelized version of Dorothea Lange’s life.

Dorothea Lange had a career with several distinct periods of subject material and style.  She developed into a successful studio portrait photographer in the 1920’s, shooting mainly society women.  When the depression came about, she went down to the docks in San Francisco and took pictures of the striking longshoremen, and the destitute in bread lines.  She was able to bring her artistic talent as a studio portrait photographer to her images in the field to create powerful statements that personified the times.  She was hired by the US government to take photos of migrant workers which were widely published and instrumental in bringing aid to the poor.  During WW II she was hired by the military to document the internment of Japanese Americans on the West coast.  Her photos revealed a little too much of the truth rather than sanitizing the event as they wanted.  She was fired and her photos were impounded.  In the 1950’s she photographed environmental destruction in California, such as a valley in which a whole town and farms were completely removed for the creation of a reservoir.  The last period of her life was spent going through her all her images to compose a retrospective show at the New York Museum of Modern Art.  She died four months before the show opened.

The video is beautiful and engaging to watch and the power and poetry of her images captivating.  Here is the link:

Bill Sargeant


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