Tuesday, April 02, 2019

On Dorothea Lange

That is the opening paragraph from an essay on Lange by George P. Elliott published in1966 in the Museum of Modern Art book, Dorothea Lange, which accompanied an exhibit of the photographer's work shortly after her death.  Elliott's observations seem ever more relevant today when "mass journalism" has been replaced by mass social networking.

Elliott's brief essay is one of the best things I have ever read, both about Lange and about photography in general.  It gave me new insight about the photographer and her work that Linda Gordon did not quite get to in her big biography of Lange.  The essay and the book are also revealing of the process of mounting a major museum exhibit and how then Department of Photography Director, John Szarkowski, pulled it off.

How Elliott came to write such an excellent essay about photography is somewhat mysterious.  His work as a novelist had mixed critical reviews and he was best known in literary circles for his short stories and essays. Elliot does not appear to have any connection to photography other than this essay and one other in The Hudson Review.  He was a contemporary of Lange and of Weston who he also admired.  The author went to school in Berkeley and lived in San Francisco, so perhaps he actually knew Lange.

The MOMA book is out of print and examples are often pricey.  I picked up mine for fifty cents at my favorite local thrift store.  For those without my good bit of luck, the complete book is available on line as a pdf file.


Jim Grey said...

I've been using Instagram a lot less lately, primarily because of Facebook's wicked practices, but also because it strongly encourages me to glance rather than really look.

Flickr on my phone removes the wicked practices, but still doesn't discourage glancing. Flickr on desktop invites me in, as the images are large enough.

Mike said...

I follow the I Shoot Film group on Flickr. It is fun to see what people all over the world find interesting to make pictures of. I have found quite a few people there whose work I follow. I think one of the strengths of that group is that only one upload per person per day is permitted. One result is that people are forced to make a choice about what they think is their best work.

JR Smith said...

I have quite a few Ansel Adams books featuring his work in the National Parks. Sometimes, I'll pour myself a cup of tea or a glass of wine and let myself get lost in his photography. I find it is something you cannot do when looking at an image on a screen. There's just something about looking at an image printed on paper.

I've been thinking quite a bit about beginning to print some of my work as soon as I get time to spend an afternoon in the local rental darkroom. I've also, for the first time ever, asked my lab to print a roll of Agfa APX100 I just sent in.

Maybe I am just old school.

Mike said...

I stopped doing my own prints some time ago because I was fed up with the prices being charged for printer cartridges. Recently I've had a few prints done at Costco with variable results. I was pleased with the results of prints made from simple camera negatives and from some pinhole work. A couple prints of portraits were disappointing because of a loss of shadow detail. I'll try another printer for those images, but it would be nice to have an option that offers more control over the end result. I don't think I have the time or energy to get back into darkroom work.

I've been motivated to do more prints recently because of my participation in our local New Mexico Film Photographers group. People like showing their prints to the group. The next meeting will be at our house and I am going to have some easels set up for print displays as well as a Chromecast option for people who want to show their work saved to digital media.

I have quite a bunch of prints I've done in the past, but most are in folders in my bookcase as I have limited wall space for displaying prints. Recently, I have put up several foam core boards on the wall on which I can pin prints. It is nice to Iive with prints for a time rather than just looking at them once and then putting them away.