The work of Dorothea Lang and Vanessa Winship were on display at a joint exhibition at the Barbican Centre earlier this year, and I went along to the study day.
Vanessa Winship. The first part of the exhibition showed photographs she had taken in when she and her husband spent a number of years in the Balkans, Albania, Athens and Turkey. I felt that she had created a record of how life existed, and the landscape of those areas, but had failed to engage with the people she was photographing. The only photograph in which she actually seemed to engage with the subject was that of an endearing little girl sitting in a cafe looking out of the window.
In most of the other photographs there is little rapport between her and her subjects. This is especially true of the series of schoolgirls, where I would have thought she could have engaged with the young girls. They were mostly very stiff and lacked humour or personality.
Then we moved onto her series of the Humber estuary. Whilst these photographs were of good quality, I didn’t feel they were exceptional and was surprised that she was able to exhibit at such a prestigious venue.
The final part of her exhibition was a series of photographs of her grandson taken on an iphone. Again I didn’t think these were outstanding, simply family pictures which mean nothing to the onlooker.
Overall I was disappointed with the work of Vanessa Winship.
Dorothea Lange started out her career as portrait photographer, but then joined the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1935 and documented migrant workers and their families in rural areas of the US. This was a period of depression caused by the overworking of the land resulting in an infertile dust bowl. The migrant families had to move around looking for work. Dorothea Lange travelled around the area affected and photographed the migrant workers, one of her most well known photograph being the Migrant Mother. The mother was Florence Thompson, age thirty-two, mother of seven children, from Nipomo, California.
I felt she was able to capture the essence of how life was during the depression. These children seem unaware of the seriousness of their situation and are enjoying life.
Overall I felt Dorothea Lange was an excellent photographer capturing the feelings, worries, and anxieties of the migrant workers during the depression.