• 29 Jan 2018

This coming summer, the Barbican center in London will organize a Dorothea Lange retrospective. Renowned for her portraits of the American Great Depression’s left out in the 30s, this respected monument of photography managed to humanize one of the most dramatic crisis in history. As a result, it will be her first retrospective in the United Kingdom.

This picture taken by the American Office of War Information in 1936 is a portrait of photographer Dorothea Lange.

Portrait of Dorothea Lange © Office of War Information

A humanist photographer of the Great Depression

Dorothea Lange is one of the pioneers of the 20th century documentary photography. She was born in 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey and was diagnosed with polio when she was 8 year-old. Such an event is far from insignificant. Indeed, the Artist later stated: “[It] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me.” However, it was only in the 20s that she started to get an interest for documentary photography. In fact, on the occasion of her trip to Southwest, she took photographs of American Indians and made portraits. Ast when the Great Depression was hitting the United-States hard, Dorothea Lange captured its consequences on her San Francisco’s neighborhood through photography.

The photograph that moved the world

In 1936, Dorothea Lange was one of the photographers selected by the American government to document the work conditions of the migrants employed on farms. In that context, she photographed a mother and her children living in extreme poverty consequently to the Great Depression. In fact, the photograph became almost instantaneously the photographic icon of this particular episode of American history. This symbol of courage and persistence has inspired several other Artworks around the world. Dorothea Lange’s instinct encouraged her to extend her investigations. Effectively, she traveled around the United States to photograph the migrants severely impacted by the crisis of 1929.

This photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 and is a portrait of a migrant mother and her children.

Migrant Mother, 1936 © Dorothea Lange

The first British retrospective of Dorothea Lange

The British Barbican Art Center will host from June 22nd to September 2nd 2018 the exhibition “Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing”. Indeed, it will be the first retrospective of the photographer on the other side of the Manche Sea. The exhibition puts together photographic portraits taken in the Artist’s San Francisco studio but also her renowned photographs documenting the Great Depression from 1935 to 1939. Moreover, rarely exhibited portraits of locked up Japanese-Americans during the Second World War will also be part of the show. Such a retrospective is part of the Barbican’s ongoing theme “The Art of Change”. In fact, the idea is to question the Art influence on the social and political landscape.

This photograph was taken by Dorothea Lange and represents a dusty American camp in the 30s.

© Dorothea Lange


Read our article about Simon Baker, new Director of the Maison Européenne de la photographie here.

Sources : Artsy, Standard and MoMA