Help answer Dorthea Lange questions
The photographer, Dorthea Lange, says in her Artist’s Statement:
“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”
—Dorothea Lange, from Popular Photography, February 1960
Address at least two of the following questions in your response to this Discussion topic.
• Are there questions you had about this image that were not answered in Lange’s comments?
• In her artist’s statement, Dorothea Lange deliberately chose to give us particular information. For instance, why do you think Lange chose to tell us that the migrant woman is 32 years old? Did this information surprise you?
• Lange described her attraction to the migrant mother as “magnetic,” a force she could not resist. Have you experienced a similar attraction to a subject you photographed?
• Lange used words such as “hungry” and “desperate” to describe her subject. How do these words affect the way we view this photograph?
A vanitas painting was a particular type of still life immensely popular in the Netherlands (and Paris, to a lesser extent), beginning in the 17th century.
The phrase comes to us courtesy of a Biblical passage in Ecclesiastes, in which the Hebrew word “hevel” was incorrectly taken to mean “vanity of vanities”. But for this slight mistranslation, the term would rightfully be known as a “vapor painting”. Be that as it may …
A vanitas painting, while possibly containing lovely objects, always included some reference to man’s mortality – most often a human skull (with or without other bones), but also by way of burning candles, soap bubbles or decaying flowers. It was meant not only to be a work of art, but also to carry an important moral message: Trivial pleasures of life are abruptly and permanently wiped out by death, so don’t get too carried away during your earthly time.
In this discussion I would like for you to find an example of a Vanitas, post it along with how the image makes you feel, the mood of the work, and an epitaph or a quote. For this painting by Audrey Flack – “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes