Dignity vs. Despair: Dorothea Lange and Depression-Era Photographers, 1933–1941

Exhibition Website

Jun 23 2017 - Nov 26 2017

After the stock market crash in 1929, the United States experienced a deep and long lasting economic depression. Fortunes were lost and many found themselves jobless and homeless. Farms were destroyed due to drought and extreme soil erosion.

The Farm Security Administration (FSA), created in response to the Great Depression, provided loans to farmers, resettlement options for destitute families, and camps for migrant workers. Governmental agencies like the FSA saw photography as an effective way to document the disaster—to show the need for federal aid and to prompt legislative action.

Highlighting the work of five photographers— Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Marion Post Wolcott and Peter Sekaer, this exhibition features images of urban hardship, the plight of the migrant worker, and poverty in the South. The integration of images with the photographers’ own words—excerpted from captions, field notes, and interviews—gives a poignant look at one of the most difficult times in U.S. history.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether or not you go, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field presents never-before-published photos and captions from Dorothea Lange’s fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939. Lange’s images of squatter camps, benighted farmers, and stark landscapes are stunning, and her captions—which range from simple explanations of settings to historical notes and biographical sketches—add unexpected depth, bringing her subjects and their struggles unforgettably to life, often in their own words.

When Lange was dismissed from the Farm Security Administration at the end of 1939, these photos and field notes were consigned to archives, where they languished, rarely seen. With Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn not only returns them to the public eye, but sets them in the context of Lange’s pioneering life, work, and struggle for critical recognition—firmly placing Lange in her rightful position at the forefront of American photography.

Click to place Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field in your Amazon shopping cart.

  • Photography
  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Dorothea Lange
  • Walker Evans
  • Arthur Rothstein
  • Marion Post Wolcott
  • Peter Sekaer

Exhibition Venues & Dates