Dorothea Lange, Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California, 1936
Dorothea Lange: Tales of Life and Work
Prescription .143
Matthew Hong
Turin / Bassano del Grappa, Italy

“I was following instinct, not reason; I drove into that wet and soggy camp and parked my car like a homing pigeon. I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions.”

Dorothea Lange / February 1960

Dorothea Lange. Tales of Life and Work is presented at Camera, Italian Center for Photography in Torino, curated by its artistic director Walter Guadagnini and curator Monica Poggi. This landmark exhibition comprises over 200 photographs in the career of Dorothea Lange (1895–1965), one of the great photographers of our time.

Accompanied by a 176-page catalog published by Dario Cimorelli Editore with texts by Walter Guadagnini and Monica Poggi, the exhibition presents works from a vital period of Lange’s practice, the 1930s and early 1940s, where she documented social conditions that informed the economic and social structure of the United States.

In context, during the period between 1931 and 1939, the southern portions of the United States suffered severe droughts and sandstorms. These events impacted the region’s agriculture leading to the migration of over 300 thousand people to seek work elsewhere. Dorothea Lange was among the group of photographers commissioned by the U.S. government agency Farm Security Administration to document the exodus of farm workers seeking employment on the large Central Valley plantations. Lange, together with the other photographers Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, Carl Mydans, Willard Van Dike, Jack Delano, and Marion Post Wolcott, were dispatched to these affected areas over a three year period. They documented the dramatic situation of the farmers and laborers living there, responding to the urgent call for aid and solidarity with the affected communities. They produced over a quarter million images.

Climate crisis, migration, discrimination. Poverty. These were the themes invoked in Dorothea Lange’s coverage. Now, four generations later, these photographs continue to resound in their portrayal of a time and a people, calling for compassion, inspiring understanding, and invoking hope.

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