Sunday, August 23, 2009

august 17, 1936 blythe, california


seventy-three years ago -
almost to the day.

dorothea lange,
sees the world through a camera's eyes.

so many people
on the move.
desperate.
empty-eyed
and empty hearted.

and in their midst
this extraordinary photographer -
whose camera has been working at a fever pitch -
capturing a juncture in time and history,
all in the same moment.

a point of no return,

and a beginning
for america.

august 17, 1936. blythe, california.

in this moment,
she turns her camera towards a family of seven.
drought refugees from oklahoma.
they hope to get work in the cotton fields.

i see the woman first.

so strong. so pretty.

see her.

then feel her eyes.

gentle.
defiant.

can you feel
this moment
through her arms.

soft arms wrapped around a boy who knows no more
than this moment he's inside:
his mother giving . . .

food.
warmth.
love.
security.

move to her mouth.

it says
"no one.
no one will come between us."

and then i see the legs.
to her right.

whose legs?


with his arrival,
the moment relocates its centre in desperation.

35 comments:

Sixpence and a Blue Moon said...

Holy shit!!! Sorry!
What a powerful read: The words and the photographs untwist images I'm not sure I want to think into being.

This woman looks so much like my own mother did when she was younger - a body of youth...with a spirit as old as time.

Guess I got lost in the photographs and missed thinking about the talent of the artist behind the lens.

xoxo

jinksy said...

What a story these pictures tell...

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very interesting, the way you presented this, steven - you do indeed see the complete desperation in her face - and you see her beauty - then to move sideways and see him - quite a shock.
It has that all-important thing for a photograph - you wish to know what happened to them.

Titus said...

Astonishing and moving post steven, and your words heightened the intensity. I think the contrast you highlight between the two was very finely drawn. Excellent post and a valuable reminder of times not so very long gone.

Delwyn said...

Hello Steven

how are you on Sunday..

First why did you say 63 years ago? I didn't follow the move to 1936, do you mean 73 years ago...

Once at the second image I could not stop my eyes from returning to her pained face...He looks a little resigned to his fate but she carries the weight of feeding children...

Happy days

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Lange captured the raw image - you capture the only word that fits: desperation. A horrible place to live.

Unfathomable to think of the amount of human suffering this planet has hosted.

Thanks Steven. I will take this as a reminder to appreciate the abundance and lack of desperation in my life today.

Are you looking forward to returning to the classroom?

Phoenix said...

Ah.. what a story narrated so beautifully through these pictures!

steven said...

hey sixpence - they're powerful images and lange took thousands of them!! she was an amazingly talented photographer with an open heart and eyes to match judging by her work. i'm glad you saw what i saw. have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hi jinksy - stories. lots of stories. befores and afters. where did the boy end up? are his children or his children's children blogging now? hmmmm. steven

steven said...

hello weaver - you nailed it on the head!! i need to know what happened to them. the story is told in part in these pictures but it almost certainly continues to unfurl. thanks for dropping by! have a peaceful day in the dale. steven

steven said...

hello titus, thanks for your kind comments. it is a very long time ago to my children but not so very long ago to me. it astonishes me that america sank so low in so many ways just seventy-odd years ago. it makes this current "recession" look tame by comparison. have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hello delwyn - thanks for the maths check!! oh dear i've got to get it together before i return to teaching. capital letters, adding up my sums properly. the summer has taken its toll!!
the difference in facial expression on the woman between the two images was so striking and i couldn't take my eyes off it. but there's something about her strength that remains, but that poor little boy. oh i hope he worked out alright!!! have a lovely evening by the river. steven

steven said...

hello bonnie - i have some consultancy work to do for my board tomorrow so that'll ease me back into thinking and yes, i am loking forward to returning. sad to leave the different sort of freedom that summer affords but glad to return to the gift that i earn in being allowed the privilege of teacing other people's children.
these pictures underscore something that i think is so important and that is to hold gratitude close. have a lovely day. steven

steven said...

hello phoenix - they are extraordinary images that really struck me and captured my heart. there's so much spoken - and unspoken. i'm pleased to meet you by the way. i nipped over to your blog and i look forward to reading more of your fascinating life!!!! have a peaceful day. steven

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Steven, How powerful! I have long been a fan of Dorthea Lang's work. The woman certainly does have a defiant look about her in the first photo... that jawline is set, strong & determined. Yet the second photo shows a more vulnerable, worried look on her face.
Great post and thank you!
Lizzy

Dave King said...

What a complete reversal of just about everything that can be felt!
An absolutely superb post. I am SO pleased to have seen it.

Bee said...

I've always found Lange's photographs so moving. They have an immediacy to them, no matter how long ago they were actually taken. It's so difficult to capture authentic expressions as most of us begin to pose the moment a camera looks at us.

What made you think of her work today?

steven said...

hi lizzy - i don't know why but it doesn't surprise me that you'd be a fan of her work. she's an incredibly talented, creative, and insightful woman. have a lovely day. steven

steven said...

hey dave, thanks for the generous compliment!!! lange's photography is so filled with stories, and questions, especially questions, that writing about her work is easy. have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hey bee - mmm hmmm an immediacy about them is so true. i've looked at lots of her photographs and i have the strangest feeling of being in them. that the people are looking right at and through me.
what made me think of her work today? that's a super question! i've been thinking a lot about my mum and dad and these images carried a lot of emotional resonance in terms of my childhood memories of growing up in manchester. have a lovely day bee!! steven

hope said...

What moving photos!

The woman looks strong and proud in the first photo, Mama Lion protecting her young. And yet in the second, when the man takes center stage, she looks frazzled, tired, worried, confused.

Like you, I'm one of those "rest of the story" people. What happened to them? Did their story have a happy ending? Who did that boy grow up to be? I guess that's why I write...I like people's stories of who they are and why.

I appreciate posts which make me think and feel...thanks! Have a great week.

steven said...

hello hope, thanks for your interesting comment on these two pictures. i can imagine a novel coming out of them. i'd wish for a novel to come out of them so that one of the infinite number of rays of possible lives that emerge from looking at these three people could be realized. mmm hmmm, thinking and feeling - there's lots in this post that's for sure. thanks i will be having a great week. tomorrow some consultancy work for my school board. then to prepare for a year of teaching!! yayyyyy!! steven

Dan Gurney said...

DL's photography was truly inspired work! Your post helped open my heart to see these images more fully. What pain!

To think that if he's still alive that young nursing child would be in his mid-seventies today. I wonder what he could tell us.

Desperate times like those seen in the photo may well return with our heedless unwillingness to respond adequately to global warming.

I know Steven you're doing your live lightly part by eschewing automobiles, and thank you for that! I try for as many car-free days as I am able.

Abraham Lincoln said...

She was an extra-ordinary personality almost like Ansel Adams but with people. That whole era is defined by some of her work. I suppose there are others but I don't remember them.

steven said...

hello dan, nice to see you!! dorothea's photography is very truthful in its depiction of a time of tremendous hardship and change.
i do my small bit to model the possibility of carless travel, but my real work is with the 25 or so students i get to share my thinking with each year. their passion for the environment is fuel for the ideals i hold of a place where care for this world is placed first and foremost. everything else follows naturally!! have a peaceful weekend dan. steven

steven said...

hi abe! that's a neat comparison with ansel adams. i know that she captured much of what i know about that time in america. have a peaceful evening. steven

Golden West said...

Her work is remarkable.

Eryl Shields said...

I seem to be rather lost for words.

steven said...

hey eryl sometimes silence says more!! thanks so much for dropping by. steven

Alaine said...

Ah, you fixed the math - I couldn't find an email address to tell you quietly last night! :o))

A wonderful post and photography. I immediately thought of 'The Grapes of Wrath' and it also reminded me that there are people this moment suffering so needlessly....

willow said...

The transformation of expression is amazing. The strength in the first photo to the fear in the second. Brilliant pieces of photography. Thanks for posting these, Steven, and for your great thoughts.

steven said...

oh alaine you sweetheart!!! how thoughtful of you to try and quietly sort out my math mistake. do you know the irony of that is that i am used by my schoolboard for a fair bit of math consultancy. in my school i am the math lead teacher!!!! it's hilarious what two months of summer holidays will do to people isn't it!!!!! do you know i haven't read or seen the grapes of wrath! how is that? i'm "well-read" and all but steinbeck has slipped through my fingers!!!! have a peaceful day. steven

steven said...

hi willow, it truly is amazing and when i saw it i was so surprised that her strength vanished in the blink of an eye. it actually saddened me more than the context of the pimages themselves because i thought that she would be the saving grace for the family - and who knows - perhaps she ended up being just that! have a lovely day at the manor willow!! steven

Totalfeckineejit said...

The first picture looks so contempory that I feel it is staged,till I see the second and we are relegated rightly to being helpless voyeurs of the past.

Jenn Jilks said...

Tremendous juxtaposition of posts! From the photography to the art work. Just amazing.

Thanks for visiting My Reflections! I haven't been doing too much poetry, but a billion photos of My Muskoka . What with the torndado that came through Gravenhurst. At least I think it was. Huge trees smashing homes. They did not make the news, though!

Amazing how busy the summer has been!