Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Alabama Photos of the Day: Dorothea Lange's Plantation House

During the Great Depression of the 1930's, many photographers traveled around the United States documenting life in both cities and rural areas. These people--men and women--were employed by U.S. government  agencies and several of them came through Alabama documenting the extent of rural and urban poverty these agencies were designed to alleviate. Dorothea Lange was one of those photographers. 

Lange was born in New Jersey in 1895 and took up photography after high school. In 1935 she married her second husband, economist Paul Schuster Taylor. They spent the rest of the decade traveling for the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration. Lange took photographs and Taylor did interviews and gathered data. They concentrated on the rural poor--sharecroppers and migrant workers. 

In 1938 the pair came to Alabama. You can see 38 of her photographs taken in the state at the Library of Congress site here. They include Sloss-Sheffield Iron and Steel Company and a concrete mixing plant in Birmingham. However, most subjects involve the impoverished people and landscapes around Eutaw, Anniston, Cordele and Eden. 

During World War II Lange took photographs inside the Japanese Internment Camps, but most of these were seized by the U.S. Army and not seen until after the war ended. After the war she worked at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute and co-founded the photography magazine Aperture. She died in 1965. 

Below are three of Lange's haunting photographs of an abandoned plantation house somewhere in the state. In the first one, the empty and broken windows seem to be the only sign of damage--although surely the interior would be even worse. And is that white patch on the porch a person? Probably not, but perhaps Lange captured a ghost of the past....And where does that road go? 

In the other two photographs the empty house is merely a backdrop to the growth of corn, some semblance of life in the desolate landscape. 

A biography of Lange is Linda Gordon's Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits [2010].  

The source of the three house photographs is the Oakland Museum of California via the University of California's Calisphere. Neither the name of the house or its location in Alabama are given.

If you know the identity and location of this house, let us hear from you in the comments. 

Lange sits atop a Ford Model 40 in California holding her Grafex camera.

Source: Wikipedia

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