Posted by: David Vernon | April 28, 2010

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera

One of the most famous photographs to come out of the American Great Depression (the one from the 1930s, not the current one *wink*) is this photo of Florence Thompson. The photo was taken by the wonderful American portraitist Dorothea Lange.

Steve Inskeep, the co-host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition show, had an interview with author Linda Gordon this morning. Gordon is the author of a new biography of Lange, entitled Dorothea Lange, A Life Without Limits. There’s an eight-minute audio copy of the interview, along with a good story and an interesting excerpt from the book.

Lange led a complicated life – especially while living on the road in the course of her job making photographs and telling stories about Americans in the 1930s for the Farm Security Administration. She’s a fascinating figure but her quote – the title of this entry – is particularly revealing: “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” That’s wisdom.

NPR also did another story about Lange – when the book Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field, written by MIT professor Anne Whiston Spirn was released. It documents hundreds of Lange’s photos and the descriptions she wrote of them.

Two very good looks at a photographer who could see – without a camera.

Photographer Dorothea Lange at work

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