Article by Bryan Corbin
“Changing Views” features works that awakened the nation’s conscience and resonate today
A traveling exhibition of images by one of the nation’s greatest documentary photographers, Dorothea Lange, opens March 4 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Changing Views: The Photography of Dorothea Lange includes oversized prints of 30 of Lange’s remarkable images from the 1930s and 1940s, including her most famous photograph, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California.
Taken in 1936 in a migrant-worker camp, Lange’s stark black-and-white photograph of a woman with a forlorn expression cradling an infant — with two other children huddled behind her — is considered the iconic image of America during the Great Depression. Reproduced many times, including as a U.S. postage stamp, Migrant Mother has come to symbolize homeless families and migrants uprooted by economic crises. Visitors to Changing Views will experience up close a 36-by-26-inch print of the photograph with the mother’s unforgettable, haunting gaze.
Changing Views features many more of Lange’s images made during her time as a traveling documentary photographer for federal government agencies during the New Deal and World War II. Committed to social justice, Lange (1895-1965) used her Graflex camera to bring out the humanity of and create empathy for ordinary people struggling with poverty, unemployment, homelessness and dislocation. And, the exhibition features striking works by other 1930s documentary photographers who were peers of Lange’s, such as Walker Evans, Mike Disfarmer and Doris Ullman, among others.
Connecting past to present, the exhibition also includes panels about four of today’s contemporary photographers who, in the spirit of Lange, create images that make the case for social change:
- Nīa MacKnight (Lakota / Anishinaabe / Scottish) of Torrance, California
- Mary Inhea Kang of Brooklyn, New York and Austin, Texas
- Josué Rivas (Mexica / Otomi) of Portland, Oregon
- Wildstyle Paschall of Indianapolis.
Changing Views, which is open March 4 to August 6, includes impactful public programs at the Eiteljorg, such as curator-led tours and talks March 4 and July 7, a talk by local photographer and activist Wildstyle Paschall on April 13, a film photography workshop with Roberts Camera on April 15, a lecture about the experiences of interned Japanese Americans by Dr. Chrissy Lau on April 20, and more. Visit Eiteljorg.org/events for details.
“This exhibition of Dorothea Lange’s images could be one of the most moving and poignant photography shows Eiteljorg guests ever have experienced. Many people today had parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and war years, and they may have heard family stories of privations endured and the courage shown during that time,” Eiteljorg Museum President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Visitors to Changing Views will see a direct line from Dorothea Lange in the 1930s to contemporary photographers today whose images expose injustice, confront racism and call for social change.”
Jessica Nelson, Ph.D., the Eiteljorg’s director of religion and culture initiatives, is curating the exhibition locally.
“Because Lange’s photographs have become so iconic, it can be easy to forget how innovative and provocative her photography was for her time. The contemporary photographers in the Changing Views exhibition embrace Lange’s path-breaking innovation and provocation in fresh, modern ways. They encourage us to think deeply about the relationship between the photographer and the people in a photograph, and to allow these images to transport us into new ways of seeing the world,” Nelson said. “Students from the Herron School of Art + Design are also sharing their Lange-inspired photography as part of the exhibition, and we’re inviting museum visitors to submit their photographs for display as well. We want to encourage everyone to view photography as a tool for change.”
The Lange photographs are from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochbert, and the exhibition was organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions. Sponsored by Capital Group and Avis Foundation, Inc., with additional support from Roberts Camera, Changing Views: The Photography of Dorothea Lange is included with regular Eiteljorg Museum admission. For more details, visit Eiteljorg.org/ChangingViews and Eiteljorg.org/events.