The Inspiration of Dorthea Lange

Last week I had the pleasure of watching the American Masters documentary on PBS about one of my heroes, Great Depression photographer Dorthea Lange.  Her work has greatly influenced my abandoned farmhouse hunting and photography whenever I visit my family in South Dakota.  Dorthea’s compassion and unyielding desire to tell the tragic and heroic stories of our nation’s poor, interned and displaced through photography woke our nation up.  Dorthea’s images prompted more action than print alone could possibly ever have conveyed.

I’ve always found great beauty among the ruins in all forms.  Things that are new just don’t give me much creative juice.  I like to see everything worn out, faded, distressed and destroyed.  To me there’s always a lot more stories among the ruins.

“It is not enough to photograph the obviously picturesque.”

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“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”

—Dorthea Lange

You can watch the American Masters documentary online or look on demand from your local listings.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/dorothea-lange-full-episode/3260/

These images I shot with my niece south of Burke, South Dakota in January.  I’m guessing someone will recognize the house, my sincere apologies for trespassing.  The pull to see what was inside was just too much for us to resist.

There are links to Dorthea’s biography and images if you scroll down.

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Dorthea Lange’s biography

Dorthea Lange’s photographs

Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

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Anthem

by Leonard Cohen

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government —
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts
but you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

LOVE & picking up sharp things on the road

Last Thursday morning I embarked on a trip to South Dakota to spend some time with my family because of some health challenges.  I hired a driver to get me the to the airport in plenty of time.  I hate to be late and I was afraid the bus ride and long TSA lines might’ve put unnecessary stress on my travels.

My driver, Phil and I had such a compassionate conversation about our struggles that after crying in the car together we needed a hug for closure at Boston Logan Airport.  I was so boosted by the support of this complete stranger.  It was the tonic I needed to step into my childhood home with open arms and very light baggage (in both the literal & figurative senses) and ready to be of service to my clan.

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By the time I landed in Chicago, where I was waiting to meet my 20-year-old son for the last leg of our journey, I had a very simple realization.

If I could connect with my driver so easily and we could be of some comfort to each other—why don’t I just try to LOVE the whole world?

Our culture sees so many US & THEM distinctions, these come from fear, hardwired messages we aren’t even conscious of—or believing in a perceived superiority over others. I’m often guilty myself.  I’m no saint.  I’m just trying this BIG LOVE concept on for size.

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So far, I have to say I think it’s a pretty cool way to view the world.  It’s exhausting to constantly be assessing our appropriate reactions and responses in every situation.  LOVE actually gives you more free time.  I’m a big fan of FREE TIME.  Aren’t you?

I walked through the airport feeling like I had cracked the code on an ancient secret that had been waiting for me.  What if I moved through the world not just being “polite” but offering LOVE to everyone on some level?  Now, this doesn’t mean LOVING THE WHOLE WORLD the way I love my family and friends, but it does mean broadening how I define LOVE.

This morning as I walked to the post office I found all of these sharp, potentially tire destroying objects on the road.  I thought about what a simple act it is to pick up sharp objects.  It wasn’t hard for me at all.  I’m always drawn to shiny objects on the road.

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I like thinking this really simple action might’ve spared some real heartache—a popped car or bike tire…an appointment missed, someone’s pay docked or an unplanned expense for the repair.  By removing the possibility of some  heartache, I guess that’s LOVE on some level, right?