The photographer to Ira Latour, 1956
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1991
Other variants of this image:
John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange (The Museum of Modern Art, 1966, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 28
Therese Thau Heyman, Celebrating a Collection: The Work of Dorothea Lange (The Oakland Museum, 1978, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 47
Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime (Aperture, 1982), cover and p. 122
Therese Thau Heyman, Sandra S. Phillips, and John Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1994, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 32
Keith F. Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange (Kansas City, 1995), p. 55
Dorothea Lange: The Human Face (Paris, 1998, in conjunction with the exhibition), front cover, frontispiece, and p. 49
Pierre Borhan, Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer (Boston, 2002), p. 135 and 189
Elizabeth Partridge, ed., Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life (Washington, D. C., 1994), p. 82
Mark Durden, Dorothea Lange 55 (New York, 2001), p. 105
John Szarkowski, Photography Until Now (The Museum of Modern Art, 1989, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 217
This large print of one of Lange's most memorable images comes originally from the collection of West Coast photographer Ira Latour (b. 1919). Intimately involved in the photographic community in the Bay Area, Latour counted among his friends and colleagues Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Edward and Brett Weston, Dody Thompson, Minor White, Wynn Bullock, and John Gutmann. Latour's extensive work with photography began in 1929, when he took his first private lessons. During World War II, Latour was in charge of gun cameras and aerial photography in a squadron of P-38 Lockheed Lightning fighter planes, and served in 12 campaigns during a three-year period. Upon his return from Europe in 1945, Latour enrolled in Ansel Adams's first class at the California School of Fine Arts, and later studied with Minor White and Edward Weston. After his studies he taught and organized lectures and symposiums that included many notable photographers. During Latour's long career, he has been a photographer, teacher, lecturer, filmmaker, curator, writer, and art historian.According to Latour, the present photograph 'was acquired in 1956, fifty-one years ago, coinciding with a symposium I organized [and moderated] at San Francisco State College [now University] with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Pirkle Jones, Ruth Marion Baruch, and Wayne Miller. Dorothea was to have been on the panel but couldn't make it due to illness.' The symposium explored the question, 'Is There a West Coast Photography?'
In February of 1940, shortly after she stopped working for the FSA, Dorothea Lange was appointed Head Photographer for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), a division of the Department of Agriculture. Lange took a number of trips through California and Arizona, documenting agricultural communities and their daily lives. This short-lived position lasted less than one year, but produced approximately 200 negatives, including the negative for the photograph offered here.
The description that accompanies this negative at the Oakland Museums online guide to the Dorothea Lange collection reads, 'Migratory cotton picker with his sack slung over his shoulder rests at the scales before returning to work in the field.' Lange has also captioned the image 'Resting at cotton wagon before returning to work in the field. He has been picking cotton all day. A good picker earns about two dollars a day working, at this time of year, about ten hours. This is an area of rapidly expanding commercial cotton culture' (The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, p. 55).
Eloy, an agricultural town in southern Arizona, was one of the many stops on the road for the migratory worker during the Great Depression. Lange's captions refer to it as a 'raw cotton town.' Like so many of her images of the 1930s and 40s, this portrait emphasizes, through the sitter's body language and rough exterior, the daily struggles of survival that so many endured during that time.
Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer illustrates a full-frame cropping of the print offered here. In his essay, 'Dorothea Lange: Homage to Reality,' Sam Stourdzé emphasizes Lange's skill in the darkroom, stating that, '. . . in her studio, she cropped [the image offered here], concentrating on the face partly hidden by her subject's hand. The result is very effective, proving that Lange was a virtuoso in the matter of framing and cropping' (p. 189).
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