Exploring Pioneers in Photography

On the evening of March 28th at 7pm, the Livingston Public Library is presenting a virtual talk on the life and oeuvre of Dorothea Lange, pioneer of photojournalism and one of America’s most celebrated photographers.

Art enthusiast and educator Sylvia Laudien-Meo will show how throughout her career 

Dorothea Lange was keenly aware of the power of words which could “extend, buttress, illuminate, and explain the photograph” in form of captions, but could also increasingly be ‘found’ in our environment in form of advertisements, signs etc., adding to a picture’s story.

After an early career as portrait photographer, Dorothea Lange dedicated her life to documenting life during the Great Depression, telling people’s stories, as truthfully as possible, through her photographs. As one of our first professional photojournalists, she traveled through the country for the Farm Security Administration to capture the lives of impoverished sharecroppers, documented life inside the Japanese incarceration camps and in booming coast towns during WWII, and contributed to many major publications like LIFE magazine. 

Talking of Dorothea, Sylvia says, “she very carefully composed her thought provoking images while always dedicated to being truthful, taking extensive field notes, including her subject’s comments and personal observations. She created many iconic images, most famously the Migrant Mother.”

Sylvia will have a close look at many of her works and discuss her various projects, her compositional choices and the interrelationship of image and word in her oeuvre.

You can register for the talk here.

Here are some books (including fiction) available with your Library card that will shine more light on Lange.  These are followed by a list of select titles on other icons in photography.

The Bohemians: A Novel by Jasmin Darznik

In 1918 Dorothea leaves the East Coast for California, where a disaster kick-starts a new life. Her friendship with Caroline Lee, a vivacious, straight-talking woman with a complicated past, gives her entrée into Monkey Block, an artists’ colony and the bohemian heart of San Francisco. Dazzled by Caroline and her friends, Dorothea is catapulted into a heady new world of freedom, art, and politics. She also finds herself unexpectedly–and unwisely–falling in love with Maynard Dixon, a brilliant but troubled painter. Dorothea and Caroline eventually create a flourishing portrait studio only to have a devastating betrayal push their friendship to the breaking point and alter the course of their lives.

Dorothea Lange: American Photographs by Therese Thau Heyman

This exhibition catalog’s essays summarize what is known about Lange’s life; about her humanistic photographs (the best of which reveal the power of communication in body language, gesture, and facial expression); about the controversial nature of ’30s documentary photography; and about the tired debate over art, document, and propaganda. 

Dorothea Lang : A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon

We all know Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos — the “MigrantMother” holding her child, the gaunt men forlornly waiting in breAd lines — but few know the arc of her extraordinary life. In this sweeping account, renowned historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to SanFrancisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. She explores Lange’s growing radicalization as she embraced the democratic power of the camera, and she examines Lange’s entire body of work, reproducing more than one hundred images, many of them previously unseen and some of them formerly suppressed. Lange reminds us that beauty can be found in unlikely places, and that to respond to injustice, we must first simply learn how to see it.

Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images Of Japanese American Internment edited by Linda Gordon

Presenting 119 images originally censored by the U.S. Army, the majority of which have never been published. Impounded evokes the horror of a community uprooted in the early 1940s and the stark reality of the internment camps. 

Learning To See: A Novel Of Dorothea Lange, The Woman Who Revealed The Real America by Elise Hooper

At a time when women were to stay at home, Dorothea Lange, creator of some of the most iconic photographs of the twentieth century, dared to be different. Hooper presents a gripping account of the woman behind the camera who risked everything for art, activism, and love.

Restless Spirit: The Life And Work Of Dorothea Lange by Elizabeth Partridge

A biography of Dorothea Lange, whose photographs of migrant workers, Japanese American internees, and rural poverty helped bring about important social reforms.

Select Reads and DVDs on the Art of Photography and on Iconic Photographers

Annie Leibovitz At Work

Leibovitz, our most celebrated living photographer, explains how her pictures are made.  The subjects include photojournalism, studio work, photographing dancers and athletes, working with writers, and making the transition from shooting with film to working with digital cameras.

Berenice Abbott: A Life In Photography by Julia Van Haaften

Berenice Abbott is to American photography what Georgia O’Keeffe is to painting or Willa Cather to letters. Abbott’s sixty-year career established her not only as a master of American photography but also as a teacher, writer, archivist, and inventor.  This biography secures Abbott’s place in the histories of photography and modern art while framing her accomplishments as a female artist and entrepreneur.

Bill Cunningham’s On The Street: Five Decades Of Iconic Photography 

This official book of photographs houses the 50-year collection of the most iconic and beloved photographs taken by prolific fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, the King of Street Style.  The iconic Cunningham was known for wearing a blue work jacket and riding a bicycle around New York City as he captured cutting-edge street style (before street style was even a thing). He took pictures for The New York Times from 1978 until his death in 2016 and wrote the beloved columns “On the Street” and “Evening Hours,” which began in 1989.

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (DVD)

A documentary about an important American still photographer who captured New York City in the 1960s (his work there is said to have influenced the TV show Mad Men) and later the West in Texas and Los Angeles.

Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait Of Robert Frank (DVD)

Recounts the life and career of Robert Frank, a transformative Swiss-American photographer, capturing Frank reflecting on his work, including his most influential photographic book “The Americans.”

How Photography Became Contemporary Art: Inside An Artistic Revolution From Pop To The Digital aAge by Andy Grundberg

 Grundberg writes about photography’s “boom years,” chronicling the medium’s increasing role within the most important art movements of the time, from Earth Art and Conceptual Art to performance and video. He also traces photography’s embrace by museums and galleries, as well as its politicization in the culture wars of the 80s and 90s.  Part memoir and part history, this perspective ultimately tells a larger story about the decades of the 70s and 80s through the medium of photography.

Light On The Landscape : Photographs And Lessons From A  Life In Photography by William Neill

For more than two decades, William Neill has been offering his thoughts and insights about photography and the beauty of nature in essays that cover the techniques, business, and spirit of his photographic life. Curated and collected here for the first time, these essays are both pragmatic and profound, offering readers an intimate look behind the scenes at Neill’s creative process behind individual photographs as well as a discussion of the larger and more foundational topics that are key to his philosophy and approach to work.

Vivian Maier Developed: The Untold Story Of The Photographer Nanny by Ann Marks

The definitive and authorized biography that unlocks the remarkable story of Vivian Maier, the nanny who lived secretly as a world-class photographer, featuring nearly 400 of her images, many never seen before, placed for the first time in the context of her life. No one knew that behind the detached veneer was a profoundly intelligent, empathetic, and inspired woman–a woman so creatively gifted that her body of work would become one of the greatest photographic discoveries of the century.

Archana, Adult Services and Acquisitions Librarian

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