Must See: ‘Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning’ PBS Documentary

Must See: ‘Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning’ PBS Documentary

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and when it came to letting photo’s tell a story, American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, was among those who did it best. One of the most recognizable photos of the 20th century, “Migrant Mother”, was taken by the Hoboken born photographer, during her work for the Resettlement Administration and became the visual epitome of the Depression Era.

Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange

On August 29th, PBS will broadcast AMERICAN MASTERS: Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning . The captivating life story of the famed photojournalist as told by her own granddaughter, award-Winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor. Using Lange’s own photographs and writings, the documentary also contains film footage of Dorothea choosing which of her works, would be included in the exhibition for the one-woman career retrospective, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, near the end of her life.

Dorothea Lange Photographer At Home

Directed and narrated by the Peabody and five-time Emmy award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor, she says of the American Masters documentray, “My grandmother’s photographs grew out of her depth as a person. Ever since I began my career in filmmaking, I’ve wanted to make a film which would express the true breadth of her work and the ways she perceived the world”. Taylor creates a story as visually appealing and captivating as her grandmothers photos, pulling the viewer in to “look” deeper into the life of Lange.

Dorothea Lange and Grandaughter

Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters, said of the documentaries director, “We are fortunate to have a family member, who is also a talented filmmaker, telling Dorothea Lange’s remarkable life story in a way that no one else possibly could“. The film not only makes the viewer want to learn more about the late photographer, there is this instant education, almost inspired direction, to never look at a photo the same way again.

The upcoming documentary is a wonderful journey through the life of a determined, feisty and creative woman, who along with her second husband, used their amazing talents, to tell important stories about the ever changing nation around them. An education in American history is inevitable, since both Dorothea’s work and that of her husband, put them in the center of key moments in our countries history during their lifetime.

One of the big things watching this documentary, is the incredible beauty and clarity that is found in a Lange photograph. This has considerable impact when you consider how many apps and software are available today to “fix” and “alter” pictures for greater effect. Dyanna Taylor touched on this when discussing her film; “These days, everyone has a camera. What are we really seeing, trying to capture? As we enhance and alter photographs with elaborate techniques, I often wonder what Dorothea would say. Her images reveal her subjects with straightforward exactness. Her sense of the beauty in the unaltered truth of life stays with me. “See what is really there,” Dorothea always said. “Look at it. Look at it.”

Dorothea Lange Taking Photo

American Masters: Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, Premieres nationally Friday, August 29, 9-11 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

Photos: Migrant Mother – Courtesy of Dorothea / Dorothea Lange Top of Car – Courtesy of Paul S. Taylor / Top: Dorothea Lange Courtesy of ©1937, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives / Dorothea Lange With Grandaughter Dyanna Taylor – Courtesy of Paul S. Taylor / Dorothea lange With Camera – Courtesy of ©1964, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

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Wayne Andres

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