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catem
02-01-2007, 03:41 AM
....it seemed the title should portend something larger than this woman's personal history.

Don't you think it does, though?

In social terms 'Era's' don't tend to have a cut-off point, but blend into each other - in the UK the Victorian Era (don't suppose you would call it that?) spread well into the twentieth century, you could say for the whole pre-war period (definitely until the 1st World War and in many ways until the 2nd)...In Europe 1938 would be without question 'the end of an era'.....after the war, the beginning of the modern world in so many ways. Was it so different in the US?

I'm not meaning to nit-pick at all, just find the whole question of language/history/ imagery fascinating. And this one does seem to me from another age, and to suggest some kind of turning point - particularly in view of the age of the woman, and the fact that she would have been in her prime in a different world...

copake_ham
02-01-2007, 08:11 AM
Don't you think it does, though?

In social terms 'Era's' don't tend to have a cut-off point, but blend into each other - in the UK the Victorian Era (don't suppose you would call it that?) spread well into the twentieth century, you could say for the whole pre-war period (definitely until the 1st World War and in many ways until the 2nd)...In Europe 1938 would be without question 'the end of an era'.....after the war, the beginning of the modern world in so many ways. Was it so different in the US?

I'm not meaning to nit-pick at all, just find the whole question of language/history/ imagery fascinating. And this one does seem to me from another age, and to suggest some kind of turning point - particularly in view of the age of the woman, and the fact that she would have been in her prime in a different world...


Hi Cate,

No worries, I understand what you're saying. The problem I would have with the immediate analysis is that I believe the picture was taken in 1938. So, unless she was prescient when the picture was shot, Lange would not have known that the Depression was about to end (almost as many people were out of work in '38 as were in '32) largely as a result of the outbreak of WWII beginning for you folk in 1939. And in fact, the US didn't enter that war until three years (1941) after this photo was shot.

Eariler I tried to guess that perhaps Lange was referring to the changes that were occuring in the Central Valley of California (and that state generally) as thousands of migrants from the Plains states were arriving to escape the ravages of the Dust Bowl (i.e. massive drought in central US)? These migrants, nicknamed "Okies" since many came from Oklahoma, were not "welcomed" in CA - which, as was the case everywhere, struggling with the Depression.

Because most of these migrants had been farmers - they particularly gravitated to the Central Valley - which was, and remains, a major farming area. Most of these migrants were herded into "camps" and there was very serious tension between them and the "native residents" of the area.

See for example John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath - made into a movie with Henry Fonda around 1940(?) for a poignant story of this era in CA.

Anyway, this has been an overly long way of saying that if Lange's use of the word "era" is not referring strictly to this woman's life, then, given the time and place, it may be referring to what many would have considered the end of an era of a more bucolic and placid Central Valley than what they were encountering at the time.

Anyway, just my two pence. ;)

Oh, BTW, the term Victorian Era is used on this side of the pond. Sometimes to describe a cultural era (particularly among the "affected classes" in the East who emulated the British upper class lifestyle) but also, more often, to refer to a certain style of architecture from that time (e.g. the classic "Addams Family house"). :)

EDIT: See caption of the lead photo of this article from today's NY Times for an example of the use of the term "Victorian":

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/01/garden/01moving.html?_r=1&8dpc&oref=slogin

catem
02-01-2007, 09:39 AM
See for example John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath - made into a movie with Henry Fonda around 1940(?) for a poignant story of this era in CA.

Anyway, this has been an overly long way of saying that if Lange's use of the word "era" is not referring strictly to this woman's life, then, given the time and place, it may be referring to what many would have considered the end of an era of a more bucolic and placid Central Valley than what they were encountering at the time.

Anyway, just my two pence. ;)

Yes, I read 'The Grapes of Wrath' age 16, & most of Steinbeck's work - made a big impression on me! The film too.

I think the point is, all the threads are there - including a wider sense of the world changing, which must have been there at that time....

I suppose I'm trying to say - eras in time aren't tied down to specific events, either. For example last year an elderly relative of mine died aged nearly 94. We all said at the time it was the 'end of an era' and it truly felt it, when you think that she was born before the First World War. Life is just not the same now. And yet someone in the future could say - what was so special about 2006 for it to be the end of an 'era'? The end of any life, reasonably long, makes you look back not only in personal terms but in a wider, social way.

Perhaps trying to pin it down too much - or analysing it too much - is a mistake.

The meaning is there, sure enough, on various levels. What a great photographer she was.

Colin Graham
02-01-2007, 07:34 PM
Interesting. Generally, if I cant reconcile a title I don't like with a photograph that I do, I simple ignore the title. Because I regard Lange so highly, I think I simply failed somewhere and keep wondering about it. But in the end I think Bill is right, some of the titles are a bit flaky and overwrought because of the American Exodus project. Many of her later photographs are very plainly... labeled, instead of titled, so to speak.