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My Father and Dorothea Lange

August, 2014

My Father and Dorothea Lange

For my birthday in 1981, Mother gave me a Dorothea Lange catalog from the Oakland Museum.

Birthday Inscription in Lange catalog

Birthday Inscription in Lange catalog

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.

Alfred Girard

Alfred Girard – my photo of photo by Dorothea Lange

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.

Bryan and Daddy

Bryan and Daddy

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.

NY Times article with Lange-inspired painting.

NY Times article with Lange-inspired painting.

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:

Dorothea Lange - Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange – Migrant Mother