Assignment 2 "migrant mother" Dorothea Lange

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    Alexis keen

    Lesson 2 Assignment:
    “Who inspired me”
    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    I’m sure all of us once upon a time remember high school history classes going over the Great Depression and the impact of what went on and how much people’s lives changed. One of the faces and stories that stand out most and is one that has stuck with me is the story that was projected through the photographs of Dorothea Lange. She was born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey. When she was seven years old she contracted Polio which left her with a life long disability that later in her life she said “It was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me and helped me and humiliated me”. Which I think also gave her the ability to see the side of human nature to be able to not only feel human emotion but portray it in her photographs. Like most teenagers she never showed much interest in academics and decided to pursue a career in photography and went to study at Columbia University. Where she worked as an apprentice under several photographers like Arnold Genthe gaining experience in the field; she also worked for a New York portrait studio until 1918. When she decided to begin her travels; she found herself traveling the southwest photographing the Native Americans. As the onset of the Great Depression sent people into chaos and turmoil in the early 1930’s Lange and her husband started their journey to document the hardships and the effects it had not only on the people but the land; this went on for several years.

    The “Migrant Mother” is a iconic image capturing the emotion the worry and the sorrow of this mothers face. Lange was know for gently and beautifully capturing the essence of the people they met and showing the reality and pain that was suffered in this time.

    Several of Dorothea Lange’s photographs have significant meaning to me but the one that has always stood out is the “Migrant Mother” you see the worn, weather-beaten appearance with a look of absolute desperation in her eyes as she wears the worry and suffering clearly on her face. This photograph is depicted with two children leaning on her shoulders and cradling a infant in her lap. Dorothea later described this photo and said “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet” this same woman is shown in several other photographs. However, where most would say this is a very depressing photograph to me its something different. Where most people automatically shut down to only see the “depressive” nature of the photograph; I see something different. As a mother myself and seeing what raising children have done to even my mother it’s a tie we share yes the circumstances are very different but this photograph stands as a tribute to the mothers of not only of that time (starving doing everything they can to keep their families alive and scrapping by every day but still at a moments glance can be captured still undoubtedly loving her family and her children even with the heavy burden she had to bare) but to the generations of parents long after that and the normal wear and tear and worry lines we leave on our own parents faces. And what our children will leave with us and so on through the next generations. Its amazing what a single photograph can do to the mind and to the human emotion. There are hundreds of thousands of photographers who have even more hundreds of thousands of photographs they have taken though-out time. but for every photograph taken it can take on a million meanings by the people who view them and can relate to them.

    Duncan Rawlinson

    This is one of the great photographs of history. It pretty much encapsulates that entire period of time history. It is a remarkable image.

    Many students have chosen this exact image as their inspiration and for good reason, it’s a remarkably powerful photography and it changed history by bringing attention to the plight of these folks. You can learn more about Dorothea here.

    The most interesting thing about this photograph to me is that it’s been photoshopped! 😮

    If you look closely you can see that her thumb has been edited out from the bottom right of the frame. Obviously it wasn’t done with photoshop but you get the idea, even back then people we’re dodging, burning, and editing their images like this.

    You can see a larger version of this image on the photojournalism page.

    What’s also interesting to think about is that the significance of this image has only grown more important over time as not only a historical artififact but a great photograph. When you are shooting keep this in mind, the current significance of your image will change over time potentially becoming more or less significant over time. Hopefully more significant.

    I look at my images in the past and I’m sometimes embarrassed by how bad they are. But most of the time I feel good knowing that I was there, I shot that and that’s in my image library! All of that said the goal here is to know what inspires you and to keep learning from the work of others.

    You don’t have to change the world with your images but your work certainly has the potential to do that if you work hard enough.

    Nice job here, your piece was well thought out and I liked it.

    Onto the next assignment.

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