PEACH PICKER, MUSELLA, GEORGIA
with '9385C' in red crayon on the reverse, 1936
7½ by 9½ in. (19.1 by 24.1 cm.)
This early print, on double-weight paper with a semi-glossy surface, is in generally excellent condition. There is a 1/2-inch crease at the edge of the upper left corner, which appears to break the emulsion. Three tiny creases to the tips of the lower corners and along the upper edge appear to have been retouched. When examining the print closely at a variety of angles in high raking light, a few very faint matte areas are visible in the central portion of the image.
On the reverse there are two small paper tape hinge remnants along the left and right edges. The reverse is faintly soiled.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
PhotoWest Gallery, San Diego, 1990
Michael Lesy, Long Time Coming: A Photographic Portrait of America, 1943-1959 (New York, 2002), p. 381
cf. Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime (New York, 1982), p. 19
In 1936, Roy Stryker, who oversaw the documentary photography division of the Farm Security Administration, distributed shooting scripts to photographers employed by the government agency. Suggestions for photographic essays included ‘People on and off the job,’ ‘Pictures showing relationship between time and the job,’ and ‘The effect of the depression in the smaller towns of the United States’ (In This Proud Land, p. 187). It perhaps was with these ideas in mind that Dorothea Lange traveled through Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Georgia in the summer of 1936, witnessing for the first time the Depression as experienced in racially-divided, poverty-stricken regions of the South.
The photograph offered here is from a series of images Lange made in July 1936 in Musella, Georgia, a rural community twenty miles west of the city of Macon. In her caption card for a variant image, Lange described the setting: ‘Lunchtime for these Georgia peach pickers. They earn seventy-five cents a day in the orchards. Muscella [sic], Georgia.’ While the first peaches were planted in Georgia in the 1700s, it was not until after the Civil War, with a new class of inexpensive labor at hand, that Georgia was recognized as the ‘Peach State.’ The short, summer peach season dovetailed with the cotton industry's slow season, providing a steady stream of inexpensive labor desperate for year-round employment in the post-bellum South.
Later in life, Lange recounted how she strove to have real conversations with the people she photographed: 'This was very helpful to me, and I think it was helpful to them. It gave us a chance to meet on common ground' (quoted in Photographs of Lifetime, p. 116). While the exact words exchanged between Lange and the peach picker are unknown, like so many of Lange’s images of the 1930s and 40s, this portrait dually emphasizes the dignity of its sitter while also revealing the daily struggle for survival that she, and so many others, endured.
At the time of this writing, no other early prints of this image have been located.