The Crucial Years.
Photographs by Dorthea Lange. Text by Oliva María Rubio, Sandra Philips, Jack von Euw.
192 pp., 140 tritone illustrations, 8¾x10¼".
In 1935, the photographer Dorothea Lange joined Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Farm
Security Administration project, charged with the task of inventing an
iconography that would record and convey the tales of Depression-era
America. It was a task that forced Lange’s photography to evolve from its
then portrait-based character, as she stepped out into the streets to document
the woes of the Great Depression, thus creating what is today her
most legendary body of work. Gathering powerful images of displaced farmers,
sharecroppers and migrant workers (such as the classic “Migrant
Mother”) with her Graflex camera, Lange put a human face to this difficult
era, and revolutionized documentary photography. She obtained results
without forcing them, instead just “sitting down on the ground with people,
letting children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and
putting their fingers on the lens, and you just let them, because you know
that if you will behave in a generous manner, you are apt to receive it.” The
Decisive Years surveys the various topics that Lange approached throughout
the 1930s and 1940s, with an important selection of her work for theWar
Relocation Authority (on the evacuation and relocation of the American citizens
of Japanese origin)—only a few of which have ever been reproduced in
catalogues—and her documentations of farmers’ communities in California
and Arizona, and the Conference of the United Nations in San Francisco.
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