Dorothea Lange - Photographs New York Friday, April 5, 2024 | Phillips
  • In 1936, working under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration, Dorothea Lange traveled through the American South, documenting the Depression’s effects on farmer and their workers. While her brief was to photograph the cultural impact of harsh economic conditions and government assistance, in the South she was shocked to find that the status quo still reigned. Lange’s son, Daniel Dixon wrote of her trip to the South that ‘she ran up against a problem she had never encountered before. Up until then, most of her work had been done in areas where the Depression had shaken apart any social order. But in the South, a social order remained, and it held so tenaciously to those who lived under it that in order to photograph the people, she discovered that she had to photograph the order as well.’  


    This image is an emblematic document of the status of most Black agricultural workers in the South at the time, many of them unlanded tenant farmers, or – as in the photograph offered here – employed on large plantations that still clung to the hierarchies of the old South. 


    The figure on the far left of the frame in this photograph is Lange’s husband, economist and writer Paul Schuster Taylor. Lange and Taylor operated as a team in the field, with Taylor interviewing subjects and gathering data, and Lange making the photographic documentation. In this image, the plantation owner is clearly in conversation with Taylor, allowing Lange to photograph him candidly while also creating a compelling study of the workers on the steps behind him.  

    • Provenance

      Gallery 292, New York

    • Literature

      Szarkowski, Phillips, and Heyman, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, pl. 75
      Borhan, Dorothea Lange, The Heart and Mind of a Photorapher p. 128
      San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, fig. 19, pl. 75
      Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, p. 65,
      Aperture, Dorothea Lange, Photographs of a Lifetime, p. 85


Plantation Owner, Mississippi Delta near Clarksdale, Mississippi

Gelatin silver print.
7 3/8 x 9 5/8 in. (18.7 x 24.4 cm)
Farm Security Administration credit and reproduction limitations stamps, typed caption, and notations in unidentified hands in pencil and red crayon on the verso.

Full Cataloguing

$8,000 - 12,000 

Sold for $21,590

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 5 April 2024