In 1935 Roy E. Stryker, head of the Information division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), commissioned several photographers – including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee – to document America’s farm life and workers. The USA was in the throes of the Great Depression, and the scenes that the image-makers captured, from 1935-1944, created a damning and lasting vision of destitution. Lange’s 1936 portrait of the so-called Migrant Mother became a symbol of the plight of the impoverished itinerant farmers, for example – and, for Stryker, summed up his entire project at the FSA. “She has all the suffering of mankind in her but all of the perseverance too,” he reportedly said. “A restraint and a strange courage. You can see anything you want to in her. She is immortal.” As Stryker’s words suggest, he had a very particular vision of what he wanted to achieve with these photographs. Images that did not fit in with that vision were ruthlessly “killed” – rendered unpublishable by having a hole punched through the negative. Thousands of photographs were defaced in this way, in an act of censorship that has since been described as vandalism.
Vanessa Winship’s biggest UK show to date, the first UK retrospective of Dorothea Lange, and a huge group exhibition including work by photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Dayanita Singh, Alec Soth, Chris Steele-Perkins, Daido Moriyama, Diane Arbus, Pieter Hugo, Bruce Davidson, and Boris Mikhailov – they’re all coming up this year at London’s Barbican Centre, in a season titled The Art of Change.
100 works by legendary fashion and portrait photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe are going on show at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October-21 January 2018. A Style Of Her Own features over 100 photographs shot from 1931-59, celebrating work that helped define the image of the modern, independent woman, and inspired photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. Born in San Francisco in 1895 to Norwegian parents, Dahl-Wolfe studied art history and design at the San Francisco Art Institute, taking up photography in 1921 and going professional in 1930 after meeting Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. A leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar between 1936 and 1958 (where she worked extensively with influential editor Carmel Snow, fashion director Diana Vreeland, and designer Alexey Brodovitch), Dahl-Wolfe is credited with having invented the idea of the ‘supermodel’, and creating distinctive styles for models such as Suzy Parker, Jean Patchett, Barbara Mullen, Mary Jane Russell and Evelyn Tripp. She is said to have kickstarted actress Lauren Bacall’s Hollywood career, after shooting her for a Bazaar cover in 1943.
Elliot Erwitt was just 22 years old when he was commissioned to shoot Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by the legendary Roy Stryker in 1950. Stryker had won fame and lasting respect for his work with the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, commissioning photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans to shoot America’s rural heartland at the height of the Depression; by 1950 he was working with a new organisation, the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, charged with shooting the formerly industrial, notoriously polluted city as it transformed into a modern metropolis. Stryker had met Erwitt when the youngster was still studying in New York, and had commissioned him to work on a Standard Oil project alongside photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks and Russell Lee. The young image-maker must have impressed him because, when invited to document Pittsburgh by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Stryker commissioned Erwitt and – unusually for him – gave him free reign to shoot what he liked. Erwitt shot on the project for a year, until he was drafted into …
In 1973 Ralph Gibson published his first photobook, The Somnambulist; he followed up with Déjà Vu in 1973, and Days at Sea in 1974. Together the books form a trilogy which has been credited with re-imagining the modern photobook; all three were published by Lustrum Press, an organisation formed by Gibson to retain creative control of his work. Now more than 150 images from the trilogy – aka The Black Trilogy – will be shown at the Pavillon Populaire in Montpellier, South France.