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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Dorothea Lange: Whitfield Family, Person County, North Carolina


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Mr. Whitfield, tobacco sharecropper, with baby on front porch. Person County, North Carolina

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Wife and children of Mr. Whifield, tobacco sharecropper, on front porch. Person County, North Carolina

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Wife of tobacco sharecropper bathing baby in her kitchen. Person County, North Carolina

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Wife of tobacco sharecropper in kitchen of home. Person County, North Carolina

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Wife and child of tobacco sharecropper. The littlest girl comes in from outside for something to eat while mother is doing her housework. The child next to the baby is called in this country the "knee baby". Person County, North Carolina

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Corner of kitchen. Home of sharecropper. Person County, North Carolina


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Corner of tobacco farmer's front room. Shows enclosed stairway and corner of the new fancy bed. Person County, North Carolina

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Tobacco sharecropper with his oldest daughter. Person County, North Carolina


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Tobacco sharecropper tells about his prospects. Person County, North Carolina


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Tobacco sharecropper. Ready to return to the field. Person County, North Carolina


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Tobacco sharecropper and his family at the back of their house showing kitchen door, household equipment, foot path to barn. Person County, North Carolina


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Tobacco sharecropper's house. White family. Rural rehabilitation clients. Whitfield family. Near Gordonton, North Carolina

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Children helping father, tobacco sharecropper, at work in tobacco patch. Person County, North Carolina


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Daughter of tobacco sharecropper at country store. Person County, North Carolina

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Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note the kerosene pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. The brother of store owner stands near the doorway. Gordonton, Person County, North Carolina


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Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note the kerosene pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. The brother of store owner stands near the doorway. Gordonton, North Carolina


Photos by Dorothea Lange, July 1937, from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

6 comments:

ACravan said...

One thing that I think is powerful in your presentation of these images is the juxtaposition of the images which are in perfect focus with those that are not. There is such a lot of life teeming through this collection that it's actually overwhelming to behold and experience. Curtis

TC said...

Curtis, it's not only the focus that varies, but, of course, the degree of resolution in the image scan. While a relatively large share of the Lange negatives have been "scanned-up", the preponderance have not. Naturally there is a satisfaction in the clarity produced by a higher-resolution image. But after having strained my ancient eyeballs for hundreds of nights looking closely at many thousands of these FSA negatives, I've become (almost) able to able to "look past" the image quality, to grasp the essence, as it were, of the thing seen.

It's certain that the archivists have chosen which images to "clean up" for us. But there is also an element of discovery in looking at, or even at times looking for, the ones they have chosen NOT to restore.

Lange was definitely shooting human stories, and often this meant spending a good deal of time on a specific location, and making a number of images, giving a feel for context. She really wanted to know, and to learn, and to feel. At times we can feel her standing off, and then, presto, getting IN to the story.

(The "lots" from which these images come are filed in miscellaneous unsequenced groups, so in piecing them together, there is a sense of working with puzzles. That is a source of much difficulty, and, of course, in the end, of a certain sense of giving history back to itself, when the pieces begin to fit.)

"...such a lot of life teeming through this collection that it's actually overwhelming to behold and experience." That says it all, perhaps better than anyone has said it yet. Thanks so much for attending, and for sharing this pleasure.

ACravan said...

Well, it's a great pleasure, whose strength and intensity is partly felt in contrast to the part of life's rich pageant that's currently passing before all of us. That being said (i.e., I've stopped complaining), our dog Andy who had sudden emergency surgery over the weekend is doing remarkably well. Watching things re-knit together and seeing his happy attitude makes the recovery road seem like a very positive thing. I guess the urge to continue to participate in the "dachshund collective unconscious badger quest" is practically inextinguishable. He and I will be reviewing more Dorothea Lange works today. Curtis

TC said...

Curtis, as I've told you, Andy's plight evoked a tear or two here. It's in part an involuntary effect, lacrimal duct something-or-other-ism, leftover of one of those lovely "small stroke" events. But that explanation's just a cover, in this case, for simple pity. And now the memory of Andy's piteous expression, in that photo you put up, is causing a fresh attack of puddling-up. Poor Andy. Pity the poor badger as well. Poor Carolina sharecroppers. Their lives of endless toil. Poor Dorothea -- polio, ulcers, esophageal cancer. For that matter, poor everyone.

(I believe I ought to consult a dry pillow forthwith. Tuck in with a wee pinch of country-store-bought Scotch Snuff, perhaps, and dream of collapsing porches...)

ACravan said...

Thank you from Andy and me for your sympathetic reaction. We're really hopeful that he'll be fine. He's amazingly spirited and the moment he returned home, things (which were already looking up) really brightened in the All Things Great and Small-ville we inhabit. The cats are curiously respectful and his sister Edith Minturn Sedgwick Roberts aka Edie is doing what dogs do -- being properly solicitous, standing guard, etc. I'm trying to clean up two contracts, measure up, etc. I saw a news story on television stating that the US Post Office believes that their path to economic salvation lies in stoking up new sources of revenue-producing junk mail. Sometimes you honestly don't know whether it's all a dream. Curtis

TC said...

Curtis, very often now I find myself wishing it were.

But no amount of wishing or hoping
will stop our local post office branch closing.

"It was no dreme. I lay brode waking."-- T. Wyatt

They knew a thing or two, the old masters.