23 November 2011

Dorothea Lange: bearing witness


For fear the hearts of men are failing,
For these are latter days we know
The Great Depression now is spreading,
God's word declared it would be so
I'm going where there's no depression,
To the lovely land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble,
My home's in Heaven, I'm going there

In that bright land, there'll be no hunger,
No orphan children crying for bread,
No weeping widows, toil or struggle,
No shrouds, no coffins, and no death

This dark hour of midnight nearing
And tribulation time will come
The storms will hurl in midnight fear
And sweep lost millions to their doom

 Dorothea Lange-on taking her most famous photograph, Migrant Mother-

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, Resettlement Administration photographer, in California with her camera- a Graflex 4x5 Series D. 1936

first recorded by the original Carter Family in 1936 during the Great Depression. Although A.P. Carter has frequently been credited as the author, some sources attribute the song to James David Vaughan.


  1. My heart hurts when I see these photos and read those words. It is a deep deep sadness to think that it is happening once again. A deep deep sadness for so many hardened hearts. Have a blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by those you love. Mary

  2. Thank you, as always, for these. It's possible I've mentioned this before, but I think you would be interested in the material (including some remarkable, rarely viewed, Lange photography and writing) the American poet Tom Clark has posted on his website Beyond The Pale (www.tomclarkblog.blogspot.com) this year. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Curtis

  3. An eye for eye, a heart for heart
    for her.
    When the focus is a creed that we set high...

  4. My brother adds---Excellent so timely the Carter Family's "No Depression" is the perfect song for now as well as then! A.P. Carter did a little songwriting but what he did that was vital for us today for collect and save songs from the peeks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. Old A.P. would hear about a song someone had written along with a friend who had a great gift for remembering a melody together they would climb into A.P.'s old A-model and go often where there were no roads to speak of. Listen to the song several times write down the lyric and sing the song all the way home. Later after becoming the first country musicians to be recorded...it was suggested by the record company to copyright collected as well as composed songs under the name of A.P. Carter.

  5. Dorothea Lange did testify in these images. I wonder how she would see the world-just our small one today. With surprise? Chagrin? or Knowing?



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