POLITICS OF SEEING
10 | 16 | 2018 – 01 | 27 | 2019
JEU DE PAUME
« Dorothea Lange. Politics of Seeing » is organized by the Oakland Museum of California.
The European presentation has been produced in collaboration with Jeu de Paume, Paris
and Barbican Art Gallery, London.
The exhibition is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, the Henry Luce Foundation,
the Susie Tompkins Buell Fund, and Ann Hatch and Paul Discoe.
The NEUFLIZE OBC BANK, historic sponsor of the Jeu de Paume, and FIDAL chose to bring their support
to the exhibition « Dorothea Lange. Politics of Seeing » in Paris.
This exhibition is made possible through a contribution from the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The Jeu de Paume receives public funding from the ministère de la Culture
and its main corporate sponsors are the NEUFLIZE OBC BANK
and MANUFACTURE JAEGER-LECOULTRE.
À NOUS PARIS, ELLE, France 5, Le Monde, Le Point, Slate
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, 1936. The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland.
Gift of Paul S. Taylor.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EXHIBITION
EXHIBITION CATALOGUEINFORMATIONS PRA-
OF THE EXHIBITION
This is the first exhibition of Dorothea Lange’s work in France
in twenty years. It is a travelling show that originated at the
Oakland Museum of California and has been adapted for
the Jeu de Paume.
Lange was one of few women photographers to become
well known at the time. It should also be noted that Lange
was the first woman photographer to have a solo show at
the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Visitors to this exhibition will be able to discover the
strength of her vision and her social engagement with the
world she was living in. She used the camera as a tool,
combining images with the written word, a vital element in
her documentary approach that is introduced in this show as
a major part of her practice.
The exhibition is an analysis of her work in the context of its
time. It reveals the complexity of the period and the history of
the United States of America, bringing to the fore important
aspects of American society that have founded its identity. In
this respect, Lange’s work is exemplary.
Several series of works are being shown for the first time
in France. In particular, vintage prints and a screening of
digitized negatives show a full range of photographs of the
Japanese-Americans internment camps (1942–1943) with their
The exhibition will include a map showing the places
Lange visited and the journeys she made during the four-
to-five year period when she was working for the Farm
Security Administration, part of Roosevelt’s political and
economic programme called the New Deal. Visitors will be
able to understand the development of her work during this
period and also the considerable ground she covered when
responding to the demands of the commission.
Lange herself considered her work for the FSA to be an
integral part of her whole oeuvre even though it was a
response to criteria that were sometimes imposed on the
photographers. The heart of this exhibition is devoted to
this extraordinary body of work emphasising the humanist
character of Lange’s approach.
White Angel Breadline, San Francisco, 1933 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor
The Politics of Seeing features major works by the
world famous American photographer Dorothea
Lange (1895, Hoboken, New Jersey–1966, San
Francisco, California), some of which have never
before been exhibited in France. The exhibition
focuses on the extraordinary emotional power of
Dorothea Lange’s work and on the context of her
documentary practice. It features five specific series:
the Depression period (1933-1934), a selection of
works from the Farm Security Administration (1935-
1939), the Japanese American internment (1942),
the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944) and a series
on a Public defender (1955-1957). Over one hundred
splendid vintage prints taken between 1933 and
1957 are enhanced by the presence of documents
and screenings broadening the scope of an oeuvre
often familiar to the public through images such as
White Angel Breadline (1933) and Migrant Mother
(1936), which are icons of photographic history.
The majority of prints in this exhibition belong to
the Oakland Museum of California, where Lange’s
considerable archive, donated to the museum after
her death by her husband Paul Shuster Taylor,
Like John Steinbeck’s famous novel The Grapes of
Wrath, Dorothea Lange’s oeuvre has helped shape
our conception of the interwar years in America and
contributed to our knowledge of this period. However,
this exhibition also introduces other aspects of Dorothea
Lange’s practice, which she herself considered archival.
By placing the photographic work in the context of
her anthropological approach, it enables viewers to
appreciate how its power also lies in her capacity to
interact with her subjects, evident in her captions to
the images. She thereby considerably enriched the
informative quality of the visual archive and produced a
form of oral history for future generations.
In 1932, during the Great Depression that began
in 1929, Lange observed the unemployed homeless
people in the streets of San Francisco and decided
to drop her studio portrait work because she felt
that it was no longer adequate. During a two-year
period that marked a turning point in her life, she took
photographs of urban situations that portrayed the
social impact of the recession. This new work became
known in artistic circles and attracted the attention
of Paul Schuster Taylor, professor of economics at the
University of California, Berkeley. Taylor was a specialist
in agricultural conflicts of the 1930s, and in particular
Mexican migrant workers.
He began using Lange’s photographs to illustrate his
articles and in 1935 they started working together
for the government agencies of the New Deal. Their
collaboration lasted for over thirty years.
During the Second World War, Lange continued to
practise photography and to document the major
issues of the day, including the internment of Japanese-
American families during the war; the economic and
social development due to industries engaged in the
war effort; and the criminal justice system through the
work of a county public defence lawyer.
Dorothea Lange’s iconic images of the Great Depression
are well known, but her photographs of Japanese-
Americans interned during the Second World War were
only published in 2006. Shown here for the first time in
France, they illustrate perfectly how Dorothea Lange
created intimate and poignant images throughout her
career in order to denounce injustices and change
In addition to the prints, a selection of personal items,
including contact sheets, field notes and publications
allow the public to situate her work within the context of
this troubled period.
The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume offers a new
perspective on the work of this renowned American
artist, whose legacy continues to be felt today.
Highlighting the artistic qualities and the strength
of the artist’s political convictions, this exhibition
encourages the public to rediscover the importance of
Dorothea Lange’s work as a landmark in the history of
« Dorothea Lange. Politics of Seeing » is organized
by the Oakland Museum of California.
The European presentation has been produced
in collaboration with Barbican Art Gallery, London
and Jeu de Paume, Paris.
Curators: Drew Heath Johnson and Pia Viewing
POLITICS OF SEEING
10 | 16 | 2018 – 01 | 27 | 2019
“One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d
be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking,
practically unattainable, but when the great photographs are
produced, it will be down that road. I have only touched it, just
Interview with Lange, in Dorothea Lange, Part II : The
Closer For Me, film produced by KQED for National
Educational Television (NET), USA, 1965.
“On the Bowery I knew how to step over drunken men . . . I knew
how to keep an expression of face that would draw no attention,
so no one would look at me. I have used that my whole life in
Ibid., p. 16
“Often it’s just sticking around and being there, remaining there,
not swopping in and swopping out in a cloud of dust; sitting
down on the ground with people, letting the children look at your
camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers
on the lens, and you let them, because you know that if you will
behave in a generous manner, you’re very apt to receive it.”
Anne Whiston, Spirn, Daring to Look, p. 24
“I never steal a photograph. Never. All photographs are made in
collaboration, as part of their thinking as well as mine.”
Ibid., p. 23
“My own approach is based upon three considerations. First –
hands off! Whatever I photograph I do not molest or tamper with