Saturday Evening Post #139.1 : On Dorothea Lange

It’s not often that I need to add something to a Saturday Evening Post.

I was directed to a Youtube site, and as I don’t usually spend much time on there, I’d have been very lucky to have found it even accidentally.

Someone has taken a sound track of Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of a song by Woodie Guthrie that he wrote in the 1930s concerning the “Dust Bowl” refugees in the US as they moved from their devastated farms, west, looking for work. They have also collected a slide show of Dorothea Lange images to go with the music.

Lange and Guthrie were contemporaneous, both approaching the refugee activity in their own way. Dorothea with photos, Woodie with poignant heart-felt words in song.

If you are not a Springsteen fan, and let’s face it sometimes the word are hard to understand, nor are you a fan of his music, at least on this its a very simple guitar accompaniment, the best thing to do is turn the sound down, ponder the words, and become involved with the visuals.

A version of the song by Woodie Guthrie is here

They are not all from her work with the refugees, some are from a series of the “White Angel Breadline” (1933).
(Lois Jordan, a wealthy widow living in San Francisco, known as the White Angel, established a soup kitchen to feed the needy and hungry. With little or no outside funding, Jordan fed more than one million hungry men over a three year period)

What struck me personally was the broad similarity to some of our most pressing social crises.

Such issues as: the Biloela Tamil family, Refugees in detention, and the Homeless on the streets of Melbourne the First Nations people recognition, Yes, even climate change, among so many others.

I wondered what Woodie Guthrie and Dorothea Lange would have done against these predicaments.
Dorothea is quoted as saying, she considered her portrait subjects collaborators and is quoted as saying,”I never steal a photograph.”

Photographically it also had me wondering, “Where are the Great Photographs of these current issues?”

Sadly, I had to conclude we live in a world of visual overload. A photo of an issue is only as fresh as the number of ‘Likes’ it has recieved. Each one has a very limited shelf-life or use-by date. Overwhelmed with the next disaster we are fed a constant steam of images, each catching our attention, but like newspapers of old, (remember newspapers?) tomorrow used to wrap up the scraps for the bin.

Does this mean, or am I inferring, that there are no great photographs nor story-telling photographers, left.
No, of course not.

But as you, hopefully, follow the Youtube link you’ll see how great and powerful a medium photo-journalism can be.

Follow this link

Bruce Springsteen ”I Ain’t Got No Home” – YouTube
Mick Wilbury

I leave you with a Dorothea quote,

“I am trying here to say something about the despised, the defeated, the alienated. About death and disaster, about the wounded, the crippled, the helpless, the rootless, the dislocated. About finality. About the last ditch.” – Dorothea Lange



4 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #139.1 : On Dorothea Lange

  1. G’day David and many thanks for the great topics of your last two Saturday Evening Posts. Your photos are the always appreciated bonus, sometimes the main subject of my enjoyment.
    Now you have thrown in some great audio-visual feast (thankyouYouTube ;-). I always liked The Boss but I didn’t know his rendition of the great Woody Guthrie’s song. The idea of illustrating it with Dorothea Lange’s photography is amazing. Some photos were new to me, some of them were too famous not to remember. I’ve listened and watched already twice today. Again, I share your thoughts as put in the conclusion to this 139.1 post – sadly. I am also grateful for the paragraph following this conclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G’day Adam,
      I really appreciate your time to view, read and comment on this series. Lots of time I think I just write it mostly for myself, and without much thought as to how others might percieve the subject or even their previous involement or understanding of theme.
      Usually its not much of a problem as I try to be a Apolitical as possible.
      In the extended family I grew up in (in the Mallee, an area notorious for impact from dust storms), Woodie Gutherie and his music was a household regular. On a Saturday night, my Dad and his brothers, would sit around with guitars and other musical instruments and while away a few hours in the warm summer evenings. Funny how some childhood stuff sticks.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of Dorothea’s photos in one compilation. So for that reason alone it was worth following.
      Bruce Springsteen is a remarkable character in his own right. Each time I learn a little more about him my admiration increases.
      Without doubt my fav go to song is “On the Streets of Philadelphia”. I was also overpowered by Tom Hanks’ ability to play the lead character.

      The whole world is an amazing learning experience.

      Stay warm, Stay safe.


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