Archive for March 16th, 2023

Dorothea Lange On the Road to Los Angeles, California. March 1937

Dorothea Lange- On the Road to Los Angeles, California – March 1937

To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

I am a fan of the photos of Dorothea Lange. Her work very much captured the spirit and suffering of the Great Depression, giving identity to the disenfranchised masses. People on the brink. When I think of that era, it is her photos along with the imagery of John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath that come to mind. I am not sure but would bet that the look and feel of Ford’s film was influenced by Lange’s work.

I was very open to her take on what an artist–  in her case, a photographer– might be seeking with their work. I’ve written a lot here over the years about searching for something in my work but what that thing is, quite honestly, I don’t exactly know.  I know that it is not something I can find without releasing a lot of myself including my fears and preconceptions.

Lange’s idea of preconceptions being limiting is one that rings very true to me, coinciding with my constant chorus that painting is best done without thought, without having an idea of where it might end up. Preconceptions create expectations and these too are limiting. The best work often comes when there are no expectations and no idea of what I am trying to accomplish.

Well, it holds true for my painting, at least. Whenever I attempt a concept that seems fully fleshed out in my mind, it seldom, if ever, comes close to what I saw in my mind. These pieces are devoid of life, non-reactive with a feeling of being fully contrived. They feel worked and fake.

This comes from basing it on what I think I want to see rather than letting things just flow and go.

Flow and go.

That’s when new things appear in the work that my feeble mind could never preconceive.

It is, as Lange said, because our preconceptions are limiting and often false.  

Her idea (and mine, I suppose) of searching is so devoid of planning or purpose that it somewhat reminds me of Picasso‘s thoughts on searching: 

 I have never had time for the idea of searching. Whenever I wanted to express something, I did so without thinking of the past or the future.

They both sort of say the same thing but in differing ways– flow and go.

And I concur. 

This post ran back in 2015. I updated it a bit along with adding more of Lange’s photos and the song below from Talking Heads. The song is Road to Nowhere which pairs up with the Lange photo at the top. Plus it’s just a good song and the video is a fine example of 1980’s music videos. An artform in itself.

Dorothea Lange Dust Bowl Farm Dalhart Texas

Dorothea Lange- Dust Bowl Farm, Dalhart, Texas

Dorothea Lange  Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange-  Flag  at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Flag at Interment Camp at Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- 1936 Daughter of a Migrant Coal Miner

Dorothea Lange- Daughter of a Migrant Coal Miner, 1936

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson  Manzanar CA

Dorothea Lange- Grandfather with grandson at Manzanar CA Camp


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