Dorothea Lange - PHOTOGRAPHS New York Friday, October 8, 2010 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Edwynn Houk Gallery, Chicago

  • Literature

    Aperture, Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime, p. 47; Borhan, Dorothea Lange: The Heart and Mind of a Photographer, p. 79 there titled Street Demonstration, Chinatown, San Francisco, California; Davis, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange, p. 23 there titled and dated Street Demonstration, San Francisco, 1933; Heyman, Phillips and Szarkowski, Dorothea Lange: American Photographs, pl. 10; Keller, Dorothea Lange, Photographs from The J. Paul Getty Museum, pl. 6; Van Dyke, The Photographs of Dorothea Lange: A Critical Analysis, p. 463; Meltzer, Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life, p. 116; Ohru, Dorothea Lange and the Documentary Tradition, n.p.; Partridge, Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange, p. 45

  • Catalogue Essay

    From an early age, Dorothea Lange developed an acute awareness of being
    an outsider, be it for her polio-inflicted limp, or for being one of a handful of
    non-Jews in an all-Jewish school. Perhaps it was for that reason that Lange
    became interested in observing those whose lifestyle did not conform to
    the status quo. Accordingly, her photographic style evolved from the staged
    confines of studio portraiture to the spontaneous energy of street photography,
    and eventually, to the social documentarian work that crystallized her status
    as one of the greatest photographers of pre-War America, most notably during
    the Great Depression under the Farm Security Administration.
    The decision to photograph the homeless, the hungry and the needy during
    the 1930’s was embedded in compassion and a humane desire to connect
    with the underprivileged. In fact, still working as a studio portraitist —a
    rare if profitable commodity at that time—Lange candidly expressed an
    absence of intention in regards to the photographs taken outside the studio
    walls. Gradually, however, Lange’s passion transitioned from catering to
    the few unscathed by the economic turmoil to the masses afflicted by the
    disastrous aftershock of the Great Depression, documenting homeless
    drifters, infinitesimal bread lines, forlorn children, destitute migrants, and as
    we see in Lot 143, labor strikes. The General Strike, Policeman, San Francisco,
    was taken when Lange accompanied the economist (and second husband-
    to-be) Paul Taylor during his coverage of the strike for the social welfare
    journal Survey Graphic. Tragically, the strike ended with the death of one
    striker on July 5, 1934, in what came to be termed as “Bloody Thursday.” That
    year marked Lange’s complete departure from exclusive studio portraits in
    an effort to devote herself to channeling the quandary of the masses in her
    The General Strike, Policeman, San Francisco, could be read as an over-
    layering of two diametrically opposed plains: the background, comprised of
    a dense mob of strikers angrily waving signs that block view of the building
    behind and stretch past the frame of the photograph, indicating their lack
    of controllability. And conversely, the foreground, occupied by a lone,
    composed officer who appears to float in near-complete detachment from
    the scene behind him, anchored into the photograph’s edge only by his left
    foot. Each plain would have accorded the turmoil of the era with due respect,
    but together they provide one of the strongest testaments of a time defined
    by the ever-swelling gap between the restless agitation of the people and the
    helpless stance of the authorities.


The General Strike, Policeman, San Francisco

Gelatin silver print.
9 3/4 x 7 1/4 in. (24.8 x 18.4 cm).
Annotated “Photograph by Dorothea Lange from the collection of her son, Daniel Dixon' in an unidentified hand in pencil on the verso.

$35,000 - 45,000 

Sold for $43,750


8 October 2010
New York