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Lange’s “Lost” Location

Throughout Dorothea Lange’s life she has traveled all over the country and the world. East coast to west coast and across oceans to capture people in her photography. With so many differing subjects and settings, it is easy to wonder what makes up Lange’s location as a documentarian. She says, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” This quote is representative of how she takes on her work in documentary photography. Lange often discusses getting “lost” in the moment and experiences to fully, visually grasp a situation. Lange’s location is not so simple, not so stagnant. It is very much a dynamic shadow that appears when she enters a new realm of subjects. Her ability to immerse herself in her work is what makes the unseen and invisible, now visible to the audience. Whether it is in the Japanese-American internment camps or the bread lines of the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange’s location makes those injustices apparent to viewers. Her trained eye and location as a photographer and documentarian allows for pictures that are filled with beauty and empathy. “Skilled seeing requires emptying the mind of false and clich├ęd responses, responses that the human brain always creates.” Dorothea Lange practices this wholeheartedly and it evident in her life’s work. Her location is her capabilities as an artist, photographer, and documentarian. Those talents allows for moral imagination, a way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes: empathy. Maybe the reason her location is so complicatedly “lost” is because she is constantly empathizing with whoever she is working with. This is what makes her work so special. The way she interprets her experiences with the people she’s photographed constitutes her own, unique narrative. Lange has a wonderful way of fortifying a “new” piece to her location from what she sees and observes from her subjects. Getting lost is only way to discover her location and the depth behind her powerful work in photography.

Dorothea Lange

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