Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Power of Photography

Where does the power of a photograph come from?
How does this power influence public perception?

Teachers who attended the Addison's spring Teacher Workshops, Reality and Representation: An Exploration of Intention, Perception, and History, took an in-depth look at the photographs of Dorothea Lange, among many others, in order to explore these questions.

This alternate version of Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother is in the Addison's collection.

What strikes you about this image?
What differences do you notice between this image and the more familiar version?

The Library of Congress has in their collection the multiple photographs that Dorothea Lange took of Florence Owens Thompson and her children that day in February or March of 1936 in their migrant pea picker camp in Nipomo, California.

What differences do you notice between the five different versions of this image?
Why might one image have had more power than another?

This photograph remains one of the most requested items in the photography collection of the Library of Congress.

Why was this photograph selected above the others as a representation of the situation?
What has it become a symbol of?
What are the qualitities of an image that becomes an icon?

Lange's Migrant Mother has been reapproriated and recontextualized many times since its original publication in 1936. Here we see a 1964 version as the cover of Bohemia Venezolana, a Latin American magazine (from the collection of the New York Public Library) and a version by Malik that was used in the Black Panthers' Newspaper in 1973 (from the collection of the University of Virginia's Alderman Library).

What enables a photograph to have power beyond the moment in which it is taken?
How can the power of an image be transferrable?

If you want to know more about the Addison Gallery's Depression era photography, we invite you to attend our upcoming collaboration with the Memorial Hall Library, entitled New Deal Photography at the Addison Gallery, held in the Addison's temporary location in Abbot Hall, Phillips Academy, on May 7, 6:30-8:30pm. Please follow the link for more details on the event, location, and registration.

Posted by Jamie Kaplowitz, Education Fellow

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