At the library last week I spotted a book on display, “Dor0thea Lange – Grab a Hunk of Lightning“. I quickly picked it up and added it to the pile of children’s books that the kids had handed me, and we headed to the desk to checkout our goodies. When we returned home, each of us plopped down in the small apartment living room that we are calling home right now, and dove right into our new reads. I have really been wanting to understand what makes a beautiful and provoking portrait lately and this book was just the thing to get my head spinning. I want my craft to really speak to my audience and tell stories in a way that I know words can not. I know my work is no where near what Dor0thea was doing in her career, but by studying her images, the way she framed and used the light, I can begin to create a more powerful frame.
I believe in living with the camera, and not using the camera. Suddenly, if you are working a lot, it takes over and then you see meaning in everything. You don’t have to push for it. That’s what I mean by the visual life. Very rare. – Dorothea Lange, KQED San Fracnisco Audio Recording 1964-65
The kids and I have been spending a lot of time together, and that means they are most readily available subjects. My son is now in a half day kindergarten and so we have all morning to get out and explore our new city. Luckily, they will humor me by being my models. Well, most of the time anyway. And if one won’t hold still for the shutter, the other usually will. These images are examples of what I have been getting. I am purposefully processing these in black and white instead of color. Perhaps that is in part to looking through all of the Dorthea Lange images that have been floating through my mind, but I also get a totally different impact when the color is gone. Stripping down the image to the whites, greys, and blacks seems to let their eyes and expressions do the work, rather than the colors happening around them. Do you find that to be true as well?
Keep chasing the light – Vanessa
I have only recently become aware of Dorothea Lange’s work and I have to say I am most intrigued. Thank you for encouraging me to delve more into her work.
So glad to do so. Her work is fascinating to me on so many levels.
I love new ideas for finding inspiration and pushing our work!
Me too! and I am grateful to have a bit of down time to explore it right now.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Dorthea Lange, but haven’t taken a look at her work in years. Thanks for the reminder, and for sharing your process too!
Definitely check out this book. I am also going to hunt down another one about her life, this one seemed to leave out details that I think help make her work so powerful.
That title alone is brilliant! And I love the way her work is pushing you.
isn’t it!? It was a quote she said while chasing a dust storm during the Dust Bowl period.
Beautiful shots Vanessa! Love the quote you chose and the idea of living with the camera. I’ve been in awe of Dorthea’s work and now I need to find the book!
It makes me feel a little less crazy that I usually have my camera on my person at all times! and do find it!
I need to check out this book! Thank you!
Let me know what you think!
Shooting black and white lately too. Your kids are too gorgeous btw. Look forward to meeting them.
Weird. I had never heard of Dorothea Lange before last week, but in studying the Great Depression with my homeschooling kids, I just recently picked up a book of photos by Lange in the children’s section of our library (it’s called Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression) and have been kind of obsessed since then. I went back today and got Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange and am waiting on a library copy of the book you mentioned here.
Thanks for letting me know about those other books. I am going to have to check those out!
She also has a hard to find book of images from the time she spent at Steep Ravine Cabins with her family (grandchildren). I have been obsessed with finding this book (can remember the title) since staying at the cabins with my children and good friends last summer.
Dorthea Lange was such a pioneer. I’m a bit of an old school junkie. Ok, a huge old school junkie. You may also enjoy Imogen Cunningham. She is, of course, famous for her florals. She was also a mother to twins and a younger child and said she had to shoot things from her own garden since she was home with small babies and just had to shoot something. And the rest is history as they say. These women of the early 20th century paved so many avenues for us in photography. They are definitely worth your time to explore. Ruth Bernhard, Margaret Bourke-White, Mary Ellen Mark (ok, she’s current, but a ground breaker)… The list goes on and on.
I was not aware of Dorothea Lange and I am going to have to look into her books. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and inspiring text. Black and white has a way of bringing out the details that would have been lost if in color.