Posts Tagged ‘photo essay

07
Nov
19

Exhibition: ‘Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 10th November 2019

Curator: Amanda Maddox and Paul Roth

 

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flavio' 1978

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flavio
1978
Paper Closed: 21.6 × 15.1 cm (8 1/2 × 5 15/16 in.)
Collection of the Ryerson Image Centre
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Playing God can be a tricky business

 

 

“Playing God can be a tricky business”

There are some heartbreaking images (in particular by French/Brazilian photographer Henri Ballot), but in Parks photographs we never seem to hear Flavio’s voice – just his representation through the image. Despite Parks coming from a similar background of poverty and disenfranchisement and wanting the best for the boy, one can only wonder about the psychological effects of showing him the promised land and then having it all taken away.

The only time we come close to hearing Flavio’s wishes and his voice is in a snippet: “In spite of his wish to remain in the United States, Flávio was sent back to Brazil in 1963. Now 70 years old, he has never returned to the United States.”

Marcus

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

On assignment to document poverty in Brazil for Life magazine, American photographer Gordon Parks encountered one of the most important subjects of his career: Flávio da Silva. Parks featured the resourceful, ailing boy from an impoverished Rio favela (Portuguese for shantytown) and his family in the heart-rending 1961 photo essay “Freedom’s Fearful Foe.” It resulted in donations from Life readers but sparked controversy in Brazil. This exhibition explores the celebrated photo essay, tracing the extraordinary chain of events it triggered and Parks’ representation of Flávio over several decades.

 

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image (approx.): 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Family's Day Begins, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Family’s Day Begins, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.3 × 35.6 cm (10 3/4 × 14 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (The da Silva Children Climbing the Hillside), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (The da Silva Children Climbing the Hillside), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 23.2 cm (13 1/4 × 9 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by the Photographs Council, Trish and Jan de Bont, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Manfred Heiting, Lyle and Lisi Poncher, and Devon Susholtz and Stephen Purvis
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Mário da Silva, Crying after Being Bitten by Dog, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Mário da Silva, Crying after Being Bitten by Dog, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20 × 13.3 cm (7 7/8 × 5 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Catacumba Favela, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 × 18.7 cm (7 1/16 × 7 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flávio da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flávio da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.7 × 22.2 cm (13 1/4 × 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 32.7 × 22.2 cm (12 7/8 × 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Abia and Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Abia and Isabel da Silva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23 × 29.9 cm (9 1/16 × 11 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Nair da Silva, Holding Zacarias), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1961, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Nair da Silva, Holding Zacarias), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 30.5 × 22.9 cm (12 × 9 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Paulo Muniz (Brazilian, 1918-1994) 'Untitled (Gordon Parks and Flávio da Silva at Airport, Soon to Fly to United States), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative July 5, 1961, printed later

 

Paulo Muniz (Brazilian, 1918-1994)
Untitled (Gordon Parks and Flávio da Silva at Airport, Soon to Fly to United States), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative July 5, 1961, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Framed: 72.9 × 57.6 cm (28 11/16 × 22 11/16 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation Courtesy of the artist’s estate/IMS

 

Unknown maker. 'Untitled (Four Officials Inspect Catacumba Favela)' August 7, 1967

 

Unknown maker
Untitled (Four Officials Inspect Catacumba Favela)
August 7, 1967
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.1 × 24 cm (7 1/8 × 9 7/16 in.)
Diários Associados Collection-Rio de Janiero/Instituto Moreira Salles

 

Unknown maker. 'Untitled (Removal of Residents' Possessions, Catacumba Hill, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa)' October 15, 1970

 

Unknown maker
Untitled (Removal of Residents’ Possessions, Catacumba Hill, Avenida Epitácio Pessoa)
October 15, 1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 × 18 cm (9 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.)
Diários Associados Collection-Rio de Janiero/Instituto Moreira Salles

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Flávio Catches His First Fish, Denver, Colorado' Negative about 1962, print about 1977

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Flávio Catches His First Fish, Denver, Colorado
Negative about 1962, print about 1977
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 × 20.3 cm (10 × 8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)' Negative 1961-63; printed 1976

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)
Negative 1961-63; printed 1976
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 12.7 × 8.9 cm (5 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)' Negative 1961-63; printed 1976

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Untitled (Snapshot of Flávio da Silva and the Gonçalves Family)
Negative 1961-63; printed 1976
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 8.9 × 12.4 cm (3 1/2 × 4 7/8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927) 'Flávio Waves Goodbye to the Gonçalves Family from the Train That Will Take Him to New York, Denver, Colorado' Negative July 27, 1963, print about 1977

 

José Gonçalves (American, born 1927)
Flávio Waves Goodbye to the Gonçalves Family from the Train That Will Take Him to New York, Denver, Colorado
Negative July 27, 1963, print about 1977
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 20.3 × 25.4 cm (8 × 10 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© José Gonçalves

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today an exhibition of photographs by celebrated artist Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006). On view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story explores one of the most important photo essays Parks produced for Life magazine and traces how its publication prompted an extraordinary sequence of events over several decades. The exhibition is co-organised by the Getty and the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, Canada in partnership with Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil, and The Gordon Parks Foundation, New York.

“Gordon Parks’ photographs chronicling social justice, civil rights, and the African-American experience in the United States are both a vital historical document and a compelling body of artistic work,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “And, of all his varied projects, Parks considered the photographs of Flávio among his most important achievements. The great impact that it had, and still has today, can only be appreciated by presenting these photographs in their full socio-political context, which is what this exhibition does for the first time.”

An accomplished filmmaker, composer, writer and poet, Parks is best remembered for his prolific career as a photographer. He became the first African-American photographer on staff at Life magazine, where he covered subjects ranging from fashion to social injustice. In 1961 the magazine sent him to Brazil with a specific assignment: to document poverty in Rio de Janeiro for a special series on Latin America. Told to photograph the hardworking father of a large, impoverished household, Parks all but disregarded these instructions and turned his attention instead to one resident in particular – an industrious, severely asthmatic twelve-year-old boy named Flávio da Silva who lived in Catacumba, one of Rio’s working class neighbourhoods known as favelas.

Over the course of several weeks Parks photographed Flávio as he performed household chores and entertained his seven brothers and sisters – daily activities that were often interrupted by debilitating asthma attacks. Having himself grown up in abject poverty in Kansas, Parks felt deep sympathy for his subject and forged an emotional bond with him. Ultimately Parks advocated for a comprehensive photo essay dedicated to Flávio’s story in the pages of Life; editors responded by publishing a twelve-page piece, titled “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty,” in June 1961. The exhibition will include images from this spread, as well as outtakes from the assignment.

Within days of its publication in the magazine, Flávio’s story emerged as a blockbuster. Moved by Parks’ heartbreaking coverage, Life‘s readers wrote thousands of letters and spontaneously donated money to support the da Silva family and the revitalisation of the favela. Upon seeing the images, the president of the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital (CARIH) in Denver, Colorado offered to treat Flávio as a patient, free of charge. In July 1961, Life sent Parks back to Rio as part of the magazine’s follow-up efforts. After helping to move the da Silva family from Catacumba, Parks accompanied Flávio from Rio to the United States. For the next two years Flávio lived and received treatment at CARIH but spent most weekends with a Portugeuse-speaking host family who introduced him to various aspects of American culture.

Anticipating a compelling story about Flávio’s medical progress and experience in the U.S., Life assigned a local photographer, Hikaru “Carl” Iwasaki, to document the boy’s arrival in Denver, admission to the hospital, and acclimation at school. A selection of these images will be on view in the exhibition, including some that Life never published, alongside snapshots made by Flávio’s host father in Denver, José Gonçalves. In spite of his wish to remain in the United States, Flávio was sent back to Brazil in 1963. Now 70 years old, he has never returned to the United States.

When published in 1961, “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty” was also met with criticism, particularly within the Brazilian press. Outraged and determined to retaliate against Life‘s negative portrayal of the Catacumba favela and its residents, the Brazilian magazine O Cruzeiro sent staff photographer Henri Ballot to report on poverty in New York, where Life was headquartered. While exploring the Lower East Side in Manhattan, Ballot documented an immigrant family from Puerto Rico – Felix and Esther Gonzalez and their children – who lived in a derelict one-bedroom apartment. Arguing that poverty was equally endemic in the United States, O Cruzeiro published Ballot’s photographs in October 1961 in the photo essay “Nôvo recorde americano: Miséria” (New American Record: Misery). Photographs from this story, as well as from an investigative exposé on Parks’ reportage also published in O Cruzeiro in 1961, will be on view in the exhibition.

Over the years Parks periodically returned to Flávio as a subject. In 1976 he published Flávio, which recounted and updated the story through words and pictures. In the book’s introduction, Parks provided insight into his own conflicted engagement with certain photographic assignments that focused on people like the da Silva family, acknowledging that he “was perhaps playing God” by digging “deeper and deeper into the privacy of these lives, hoping … to reshape their destinies into something much better.” Following this admission, Parks returned to Brazil only once in the 1990s; it marked the last time Parks and Flávio saw each other prior to Parks’ death in 2006.

“Parks regarded poverty as ‘the most savage of all human afflictions,’ in no small part because he was born into destitution,” says Amanda Maddox, co-curator of the exhibition and an associate curator at the Getty Museum. “As a photographer he consciously wielded his camera as a weapon – his chosen term – in an attempt to combat economic and racial inequality. Viewed in this context, his documentation of Flávio da Silva – for Life and beyond – reveals the complexity of his empathetic approach and the inherent difficulties of representing someone else’s personal story – a story that resonated with many people over many years – in any form.”

In addition to more than 100 photographs, the exhibition will also include original issues of Life that featured Flávio’s story, previously unseen ephemera related to Flávio’s time in Denver, and private memos, correspondence, and records held by Life and Parks.

Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story is on view July 9-November 10, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is co-curated by Amanda Maddox, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Paul Roth, director of the Ryerson Image Centre. An accompanying book is available, published by Steidl Verlag, with essays by Maddox and Roth, as well as Sergio Burgi, curator at Instituto Moreira Salles; Beatriz Jaguaribe, professor of comparative communications, School of Communications, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro; and Maria Alice Rezende de Carvalho, professor of sociology, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum Cited 27/10/2019

 

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Ely-Samuel Gonzalez on His Bed, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Ely-Samuel Gonzalez on His Bed, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.5 × 15.8 cm (9 1/4 × 6 1/4 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Apartment Building Where the Gonzalez Family lives, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Apartment Building Where the Gonzalez Family lives, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 23.9 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Child Playing Surrounded by Trash, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Child Playing Surrounded by Trash, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 24 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Bedroom in the Gonzalez Family Apartment, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Bedroom in the Gonzalez Family Apartment, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.3 × 24 cm (7 3/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Child Crying at the Window, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Child Crying at the Window, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.2 × 18 cm (9 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Photographer Henri Ballot with Ely-Samuel (on the Left) and His Brothers, Manhattan, New York' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Photographer Henri Ballot with Ely-Samuel (on the Left) and His Brothers, Manhattan, New York
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 × 24.4 cm (7 × 9 5/8 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Maria Penha da Silva, Flávio's Grandmother, and Her Other Grandchildren, Reading 'Life', Guadalupe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Maria Penha da Silva, Flávio’s Grandmother, and Her Other Grandchildren, Reading ‘Life’, Guadalupe, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 × 24 cm (6 5/16 × 9 7/16 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997) 'Aracy, a Neighbour of the da Silva Family, Pointing out Where the Photographs for Gordon Parks's Reportage Were Taken in the da Silvas' Former Home, Catacumba Hill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1961

 

Henri Ballot (French / Brazilian, 1921-1997)
Aracy, a Neighbour of the da Silva Family, Pointing out Where the Photographs for Gordon Parks’s Reportage Were Taken in the da Silvas’ Former Home, Catacumba Hill, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1961
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 × 15.9 cm (9 3/8 × 6 1/4 in.)
Henri Ballot/Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (The da Silva Family), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1976, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (The da Silva Family), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1976, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 × 34 cm (9 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' Negative 1976, printed later

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Negative 1976, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 × 23.5 cm (13 1/2 × 9 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Flávio da Silva Looking at Gordon Parks's Book 'Moments Without Proper Names', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Flávio da Silva Looking at Gordon Parks’s Book ‘Moments Without Proper Names’, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio and Cleuza da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1976

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio and Cleuza da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1976
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.6 × 27.9 cm (14 × 11 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1999

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1999
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.3 × 25.4 cm (8 × 10 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006) 'Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil' 1999

 

Gordon Parks (American, 1912-2006)
Untitled (Flávio da Silva), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1999
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 25.4 × 20.3 cm (10 × 8 in.)
The Gordon Parks Foundation
© The Gordon Parks Foundation

 

 

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1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
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25
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns’ at Brigham Young University Museum of Art, Provo, Utah

Exhibition dates: 20th January – 30th April 2011

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“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange

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For a glimmer of understanding into the mind of a master artist go the ‘Exploring Three Mormon Towns’ web page and click on the ‘Original Layout for Three Mormon Towns‘ link at right hand side. View Lange’s conceptual layout for her September 6th, 1954 LIFE magazine photo essay at full screen size. Note the size and placement of the photographs and text especially the use of negative space (as on page 4). Also note the size of the cloud photograph at left on page 5 when compared to the church steeple next to it and the size of that steeple in comparison to the rest of the images. Observe the ascending progression of page 6 with the complex but sympathetic narrative that it tells; the use of gridded photographs on page 7; the bookended lives and church attendance on page 8.

Lange observes the minutiae, the precise details that go to make up the lives of these three towns and puts them together in a wonderful symphony of beautifully calculated, seemingly happenstance associations. Masterful!

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Many thankx to the Brigham Young University Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs by Dorothea Lange © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

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Toquerville, Utah

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Dorothea Lange
‘Doorway, Toquerville, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Mulberry Tree, Neagle Home, Toquerville, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Riley Savage, Toquerville, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Hands, Toquerville, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Eggs, Toquerville, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Collection of John and Lolita Dixon

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“In August 1953, renowned American photographer Dorothea Lange travelled to southern Utah where she met up with her long-time friend Ansel Adams. The two photographers spent three weeks photographing the landscape and people of Toquerville, Gunlock and St. George with the intention of publishing the work in LIFE magazine.

Lange’s enthusiasm for her subject yielded hundreds of photographs from which she composed an extended essay of 135 photographs, including images by Ansel Adams. Thirty-five of those photographs with text by Daniel Dixon appeared under the title “Three Mormon Towns” in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE.

“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns,” a new exhibition at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, features 21 of Lange’s photographs from this series acquired by the museum. The exhibition also draws from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, and the collection of John and Lolita Dixon.

The 62 vintage prints in the exhibition, accompanied by excerpts from Dixon’s original text, examine Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage and the transformation of the West in post-war America.

“Subtle and poetic, the series of photographs that has come to be known as ‘Three Mormon Towns’ is a bridge between Lange’s famous Depression Era photographs and her detailed photo essays of the 1950s,” Diana Turnbow, Curator of Photography at Brigham Young University Museum of Art, said.

Utah attracted Lange’s interest when she and her first husband, Maynard Dixon, spent the summer of 1933 camping and working in Zion National Park. She originally intended to photograph southern Utah with the support of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1941; however, a family crisis, followed by the onset of World War II prevented Lange from traveling to Utah. Yet, the desire to photograph the Mormon towns of southern Utah never faded. In 1953, Lange returned to the place that had captured her attention decades earlier.

“While Lange’s photographs depict communities bound together by hard work and religion in the formidable landscape of the Colorado Plateau, they also explore the changes that were beginning to affect not only Utah, but rural communities throughout the United States,” Turnbow said. “‘Three Mormon Towns’ was a study of contrasts – of old and new, of quiet villages and a growing city, of deep roots and transient highways. In this series, Lange memorialized the dignity and simplicity of agrarian life in light of post-war urbanization.”

Published in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE magazine, the series of photographs that has come to be known as “Three Mormon Towns” bridges Dorothea Lange’s famous Depression era photographs with her detailed photo essays of the 1950s. Featuring sixty-two vintage photographs from the series, this exhibition considers Dorothea Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage, and the transformation of the West in post-war America.

Known for her candid and sympathetic depiction of people, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) is one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century. For over four decades she explored the human psyche through portraiture and documentary photography. The probing portraits of her early career prepared Lange to photograph the people involved in the tumultuous events of the San Francisco labor strikes of 1934, the Great Depression, and the Japanese internment during World War II. Her 1935 photograph, The Migrant Mother, is one of the great icons of the American century.

In the 1950s, Lange began to create photographic essays for the popular picture and news magazine LIFE. She eventually completed five major essays for publication, with two of the essays, including “Three Mormon Towns,” printed in LIFE. In addition, Lange was a founding member of Aperture magazine and played a role in organizing the influential “Family of Man” exhibition that premiered in New York in 1955.

In the later part of her life, Lange photographed and traveled extensively with her husband, Paul Taylor, in conjunction with his work in international development. Her photographs of South America, Africa, and Asia were deft and subtle, exploring a rich visual landscape populated with diverse objects and people.

In 1964, Lange was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Sustained by determination, she worked steadily to complete a number of projects including a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She passed away on October 11, 1965, content with the life that she had been able to live.”

Text from the Brigham Young University Museum of Art website

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Gunlock, Utah

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Dorothea Lange
‘Sky and Clouds, Gunlock, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Jake Jones’ Hands, Gunlock, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Horseplay, Gunlock, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Four Young Riders in Summer’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago

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Dorothea Lange
‘Couple Seated on Porch, Gunlock, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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St. George, Utah

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Dorothea Lange
‘Anne Carter Johnson, St. George, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Dorothea Lange
‘Young Woman, St. George, Utah’
1953
Silver gelatin photograph
righam Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley

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Brigham Young University Museum of Art
North Campus Drive, Provo, UT 84602-1400

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m

Brigham Young University Museum of Art website

Dorothea Lange’s Three Morman Towns website

Original Layout of Three Mormon Towns in LIFE Magazine

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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