Monday, September 7, 2015

A Documentary

Mended Stockings by Dorothea Lange

I know that no one else that I know is as affected as I am by Ivan Albright’s painting Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida. That’s okay. I have written about it before so I won’t do that again.

Today I was watching a documentary on Dorothea Lange. There were many of her photographs that I had never seen before. Hard to imagine as much photography as I look at, but true.
I found a second Ida in one of Lange’s photographs that I was not familiar with, titled Mended Stockings. Lange produced many powerful photographs but this one really hit me.
Of course, understanding the power of this photograph requires a knowledge of the importance of silk or nylon stockings to a woman of that time period. I don’t know how anyone that has any understanding of that importance can look at this photograph without having their gut twisted in knots. The 'repairs' are like sutures holding her dignity. self esteem and identity as a woman together.

I couldn’t find a really good reproduction of the photograph but here is a link to the documentary Grab A Hunk of Lightening

Addendum: I contend that photography is the art of exclusion. You’ve read the explanation so I won’t repeat it. I just think there might not be a better illustration of that belief than this photograph.

Lange could have shown the whole woman, giving her an identity—completing the story. She didn’t. Instead the entire story of this woman is written in a pair of crudely mended stockings. Lange gave the viewer woman, not a woman. She captured the universality of this woman’s story by leaving her anonymous. This was a time when women were different from men and men loved them for that. They loved them for their small vanities done to make themselves attractive for men. It was a time when women were still very special people.

The viewer writes this woman’s story because we have all known this woman at some point in our lives—maybe more often than once. We transfer what we felt to this lady with the mended stockings. 

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