My Father and Dorothea Lange
For my birthday in 1981, Mother gave me a Dorothea Lange catalog from the Oakland Museum.
There on page 56 was my father speaking into a microphone against a dramatic sky. The photo is taken from slightly below – adding to the drama and power.
The newspaper in his pocket of 1934 underlines the time of the San Francisco General Strike. Daddy was a radical and a labor leader and was speaking to a huge mass on Market Street. Lange took several photos of the rally that day; this one ended up in several books and journals. The birthday gift to me was a total surprise. My father died in an auto accident when I was 17 and I never knew of that photo by the famous photographer. Mother never told us about it. There was, in her mind, a reason for her secrecy … but that’s another matter. A friend arranged to have a print made for me by Lange’s own printer and here, circa 2005, is my brother Bryan, clowning in front of it.
The Lange spirit continued. At a dinner party in 2013 a friend mentioned an article in the New York Times Real Estate section about a celebrity apartment with a painting on the wall that seemed to be the photo but not quite.
The actor/artist celebrity – Matthew Modine – confirmed in correspondence with me that the painting was indeed his and inspired by the Lange photo he saw in a book. His for-sale apartment was in Chelsea just a few blocks from my own. Here I had lived all these years practically next door to a painting of my own father on somebody’s wall! From 1934 to 2014, the Lange photo and its aura persist for me.
Homage to Lange:
Thank you for sharing this story about my Grandfather.
Such an inspiring & powerful photograph of my dearly loved close friend’s grandfather. His serious concern for his subject is strongly apparent. Lisa, his granddaughter, carries forth a passion & sensitivity in her work that links them together; having never met yet sharing a deep concern for the wellbeing of others less fortunate. Two people arising from the same gene pool doing what they can by taking action & speaking out for what is right & essential to address & shed light on if the world is to be a better place by telling others that might otherwise be deaf, blind, or ignorant to their horrific circumstances.
Bravo! Brava! To both their efforts….
Thank you kindly.
HI SUE! I didn’t se this until now!! Thank you!!
I always love these stories about your father and Dorothea Lange, but you must elaborate on the Matthew Modine find.
What a great story! I have always loved this Dorothea Lange photo, and enjoy the satirical migrant mothers in your life — looks like there is another migrant mother’s conscience weighing on my own migrant mother’s shoulder!