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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art 2018, Part 10: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs

Anne Whiston Spirn, author, photographer, landscape architect, and Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many of Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the recent, important gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser appear in her books An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (1939) and The American Country Woman (1967), in which she paired photographs to expand meaning. Speaking at the second annual John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held on March 23, 2018, at the National Gallery of Art, Anne Whiston Spirn looks at a selection of images from this collection in the context of the pair to which they belong and the captions that Lange wrote for them. “I used to think in terms of single photographs. The Bull’s-eye technique. No more. A photographic statement is what I now reach for. Therefore these pairs, like a statement of 2 words.” By the time she wrote this in 1958 Lange had been experimenting with pairing, sequencing, and captions for more than two decades. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.