Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/11/09

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Subject: RE: [Leica] Re: Lenswork Magazine
From: "bdcolen" <>
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2002 18:56:02 -0500

No flame throwers; no flames. :-)

The FSA photo projected was created specifically to highlight poverty
and the plight of the poor in rural areas to build support for New Deal
legislation and programs. Nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that
the folks working for the program were, at best, doing PR photography.
They were sent out to bring back photos making people and places look as
poor and downtrodden as possible. That doesn't mean that people weren't
poor and downtrodden, but if you look at some of the examples of Lange's
out-takes, you can see what she was going for. 

As for Smith...he invented the modern photo essay, he was a creative
genius whose work I greatly admire - but he set up photos in a way that
would not be tolerated today by any main stream media outlet.

So we come back to the question of what is or isn't documentary
photography.....I believe that if one sets out to "document" a
situation, be it the lives of failing farmers in the dust bowl and
"okies" on the road, or the daily life of a middle class family, one is
obligated to "document" - preserve - things as one finds them, and not
set up photos to tell the story one had in mind.

But again, that doesn't mean the Lange didn't do great work. She did. Do
great work.

B. D.
- -----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Dan C
Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 5:32 PM
Subject: RE: [Leica] Re: Lenswork Magazine

But why not?   Did her work distort realty?   Did she lie with her
any more than a "true" documentary photographer would?   (I don't mean
in an inflamatory or negative sence, so put out the flame throwers,

And how does she differ from someone like Smith, who went out on
assignments for publications such as LIFE magaize?  If an editor calls
in a photographer and tells him to do a series on the life of a country
doctor, how does that differ from the assignment that befell Lange?

Dan C.

At 05:19 PM 09-11-02 -0500, bdcolen wrote:
>All very true - But how ever good her work - and some of it was 
>stunningly good - she was a photographer for the New Deal propaganda 
>machine, producing propaganda - not that I'm not grateful that that 
>propaganda was produced, and that it was as successful as it was.  ;-)
>But, in IMHO I don't think we should consider the FSA work documentary 
>photography in the normal sense of the word - even though it's widely 
>viewed that way...
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