She explains, “I often think photography is a reflection of the external world, and will therefore comment on and critique historical social discourses.
“She was interested in showing the greater context, working in storyboards.
She understood how to tell the story that needed to be shown.
The work she generated during that time, including is situated within the greater context of the Dust Bowl Migration, when 300,000 people migrated from the Midwestern Dust Bowl states to California in search of stable work.
Although Lange’s output during this period centers on the farmers who are vying for work, Pardo notes that the content has another focus: “It’s also about the politics of this time.
These images reflect her personal life in addition to the constructed narratives and characters she frequently associated with in the West Coast photography scene at the time.
Commenting on the importance of this early work, Barbican curator Alona Pardo says, “We wanted to anchor and position her not only as this lone ranger doing her own thing, but also as someone who was very much in dialogue with photographers in the West Coast.
She was constantly going out and photographing the full spectrum of people on this migratory route.” Considering how Americans and refugees continue to suffer from racialized mistreatment today, the current exhibition of Lange’s work feels particularly timely.
“A lot of the welfare and social reforms prevalent today date back to the Depression era,” Pardo notes.
She was able to show, disseminate and circulate images of things that people weren’t seeing in their day-to-day lives, and she did everything she could to ensure they got into the media.
The way she saw the world was through the framework of politics, and that visualization is what we are communicating with this exhibition.” —Cat Lachowskyj The exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is on view at the Barbican Art Gallery in London from June 22 - September 2, 2018 as a double bill alongside an exhibition of photographer Vanessa Winship’s poetic approach to documentary work. This evacuee stands by her baggage as she waits for evacuation bus.