By Claudia Libow
This March, the Frist Museum of Art welcomes the distinguished exhibition, Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing. During a time of political conflict, Lange’s 20th century photographs are strikingly relevant. Frist Museum curator, Katie Delmez, categorizes the work as “activism through photography,” stating, “it’s not just about a beautiful photograph. It’s about awakening people’s awareness.”
Once a studio portraitist capturing San Francisco’s elite, Dorothea Lange made a dramatic shift in 1933 as she began highlighting the impoverished and maltreated rather than the city’s upper-class. Perhaps her most famous photograph, Migrant Mother, is just one representation of her extensive exploration of depression-era life throughout America.
Featuring vintage prints and negatives, the collection lures visitors with Lange’s iconic images but also reveals unseen photographs. Delmez worked closely with the exhibition’s original curator, Drew Heath Johnson of the Oakland Museum of California. Delmez carefully customized the exhibition for the museum’s “space and audience,” yet remained faithful to Johnson’s vision, generated from his intimacy with the archive. Lange’s husband gifted the entirety of her collection as well as personal belongings to the Oakland Museum.
Katie Delmez summarized, “this is a great opportunity to shine a light on a female artist as we are so often overlooked. It is an ideal time to revisit this iconic photographer who really is one of the most important documentary photographers of all time.”