Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field

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9780226769844: Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field

Daring to Look presents never-before-published photos and captions from Dorothea Lange’s fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939. Lange’s images of squatter camps, benighted farmers, and stark landscapes are stunning, and her captions—which range from simple explanations of settings to historical notes and biographical sketches—add unexpected depth, bringing her subjects and their struggles unforgettably to life, often in their own words.

When Lange was dismissed from the Farm Security Administration at the end of 1939, these photos and field notes were consigned to archives, where they languished, rarely seen. With Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn not only returns them to the public eye, but sets them in the context of Lange’s pioneering life, work, and struggle for critical recognition—firmly placing Lange in her rightful position at the forefront of American photography.

“[A] thoughtful and meticulously researched account of Lange’s career. . . . Spirn, a photographer herself, traces Lange’s path, visiting her locations and subjects in a fascinating series of ‘then and now’ shots.”—Publishers Weekly

“Dorothea Lange has long been regarded as one of the most brilliant photographic witnesses we have ever had to the peoples and landscapes of America, but until now no one has fully appreciated the richness with which she wove images together with words to convey her insights about this nation. We are lucky indeed that Anne Whiston Spirn, herself a gifted photographer and writer, has now recovered Lange’s field notes and woven them into a rich tapestry of texts and images to help us reflect anew on Lange’s extraordinary body of work.”—William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis

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About the Author:

Anne Whiston Spirnis professor of landscape architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A photographer herself, she is the author of The Granite Garden: Urban Nature and Human Design and The Language of Landscape.
 

Review:

“As a lifelong friend of Dorothea Lange, I was absolutely astounded and thoroughly pleased with Daring to Look. Anne Whiston Spirn has hit the nail on the head: she knows the secret of understanding good  photography--and of understanding Dorothea Lange's life as well. An astonishing book.”

(Rondal Partridge, photographer and former assistant to Lange)

“Dorothea Lange has long been regarded as one of the most brilliant photographic witnesses we have ever had to the peoples and landscapes of America, but until now no one has fully appreciated the richness with which she wove images together with words to convey her insights about this nation. We are lucky indeed that Anne Whiston Spirn, herself a gifted photographer and writer, has now recovered Lange’s field notes and woven them into a rich tapestry of texts and images to help us reflect anew on Lange’s extraordinary body of work.” (William Cronon, author of Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West)

“Dorothea Lange is known as one of the greatest American photographers, but she was also a remarkable observer whose field notes have largely remained unpublished until now. In Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn, a landscape architect, photographer, and writer herself, has edited Lange's field notes, adding her own interpretative essays on Lange's work, and rephotographing some of Lange’s sites. This is a very important book deserving wide readership because it provides a wonderful combination of the socially conscious work of two gifted artists and writers.”—Dolores Hayden, Yale University (Dolores Hayden, Yale University)

"Dorothea Lange is one of America’s greatest documentary photographers. Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field is a very important book. It provides a fascinating insight into her FSA photographs and writings during that time. Ms. Lange’s photographs, especially the work she did for the FSA were a great inspiration for so many photographers, including myself." (Mary Ellen Mark, photographer)

"In this thoughtful and meticulously researched account of Lange's career, Spirn focuses on the photographer's largely unpublished 1939 portfolio and champions it as a mix of the visual and the verbal. Lange's stark photographs and accompanying field reports testify to her desire to show real Depression-era Americans—displaced and downtrodden, but carrying on nevertheless—as honestly as possible. . . . Spirn, a photographer herself, traces Lange's path, visiting her locations and subjects in a fascinating series of 'then and now' shots, an homage to Lange, who Spirn compellingly argues deserves to take her place as 'one of the most important American artists of the Twentieth Century.'" (Publishers Weekly)

"A revealing glimpse of Lange's working methods and social vision." (Choice)

“In the fascinating Daring to Look, a product of dogged archival reconstruction and shrewd readings of individual photographs, Anne Whiston Spirn presents a case study of Lange’s artistic agility. . . . Spirn demonstrates how vigorously the joint effort of word and image rebuts the standard deprecations of Lange’s work.”

(Jordan Bear Bookforum)

"Imaginative and beautifully produced, Anne Whiston Spirn's book is a delightful hybrid: a newly published primary source, a photography book with a fine introduction . . . an apologia for Lange against her often snobbish critics." (Linda Gordon Oregon Historical Quarterly)

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