Museum of Art

Brigham Young University

Provo, UT



Dorothea Lange: Human Documents

November 17, 2000 - November 3, 2001


Brigham Young University ­ Museum of Art will host the official public opening of the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Human Documents in the Jones and Boushard Galleries (together with the public opening of the major exhibition Escape to Reality: The Western World of Maynard Dixon at 7pm Friday November 17, 2000.

Dorothea Lange is one of the most influential photographers of the Twentieth century. In a time when there were few professions open to women, she pioneered the field of documentary photography, using her pictures of the Depression Era as catalysts for social change. Foremost in all her images, Lange's concern and interest in the human condition. (left: White Angel Breadline, 1933)

In 1920 Lange, then 24, was in the process of establishing a commercial portrait studio in San Francisco. Lange's intense interest in people and her easy connection with them brought her to portrait photography as a trade. That same year, Lange met and married Maynard Dixon, twenty years her senior. Dorothea's financial and emotional support allowed Dixon to focus on his own artistic pursuits. She accompanied the painter on several of his trips to the Southwest, closely observing the way he captured the great expanse of the western landscape, the low horizon line, the simple silhouette, the bold shapes, and always the vastness of the western sky. These visual elements remained an essential part of Lange's aesthetic. During Lange and Dixon's fifteen year marriage, Lange made the transition from a fashionable studio photographer to a photo-journalist of world renown. (left: San Francisco's Street Demonstrators on Edge of Chinatown, 1934; right; Japanese Internment Camp, c. 1942-43)

Lange remained deeply connected to her roots as a portrait photographer. No matter when or what she photographed, it was through the language of portraiture. She found meaning in the tilt of a head, an expression on a face, the position of a body. The common thread for Lange's career was her passion for the human condition. Even her photographs without human subjects retain a human quality, a spiritual presence. (Left: Migrant Cotton Picker, Elroy, Arizona, 1940)

Human Documents exhibits 46 distinctive works by Lange (on loan from the Oakland Museum of California ). The exhibition samples works from her entire career, including her most recognized iconic Migrant Mother and White Angel Breadline. A multi-media presentation of Lange talking about her works will also be on display in the gallery.

This exhibition will define her not merely as a documentary photographer, but as a photographer inexorably drawn to people, a photographer of human documents. The concurrent exhibitions of Lange and Dixon work offer an opportunity to recognize each artist's contributions on their own right as well as a rare opportunity to explore their artistic and thematic connection to one another. (left: Hands, Maynard and Dan Dixon, c. 1930)

A lavishly illustrated catalog, authored by Gibbs and Rasiel, accompanies the exhibition, and will be available in the Museum Store.

The Lange exhibition is curated by Deborah Brown Rasiel. Deborah Brown Rasiel graduated from Tufts University with a BFA in photography and a master's degree in art history empahasizing photo history. Deborah also pursued further study in Art History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She currently resides in Alpine, New Jersey, with her husband and three children. (left: Studio Portrait, n.d)



TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Dorothea Lange: American Photographer  is a 13 minute, PPR 1988 video. "Trained as a portrait photographer in San Francisco, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) abandoned her studio in the 1930s and began documenting the effects of the Depression on ordinary Americans. Her images spoke eloquently of the plight of the poor and brought the desperation of the Depression into the consciousness of the public. Her last exhibition, a retrospective held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1965, was a tribute to the human face. Lange's photographs remain singular symbols of America's 'Dust Bowl' era." Available from Media Resources Center, Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life is a 50 minute 1995 film directed by: Meg Partridge. The great photographer is revealed through examples of her work and interviews with both the artist and her family. Lange was pivotal to the development of documentary photography traditions and her work remains an aesthetic achievement that continues to inspire photographers today. "A tapestry of candid, often conflicting insights into the photographer Dorothea Lange's life and art. Lange reveals her philosophical approach to photography, her passion for her medium and the conflicts in her work and family life. We are taken into Lange's confidence as she strives to maker photographs emotionally charged as well as historically accurate. The result is an engaging portrait of this extraordinary and complex visual artist." (Arkansas Humanities Council) Available from Media Resources Center, Library, University of California, Berkeley

TFAO's combined lists comprise an authoritative guide to hundreds of videos in VHS format which feature representational American art. Some recent videos are available in DVD format. TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in this catalogue.

Read more about the Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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