A Camera Is A Tool For Seeing Without A Camera

The post title is a quote attributed to probably the most notable photographer during the Great Depression.  Her name was Dorthea Lange.  Whether Dorthea herself uttered that wisdom has yet to be proven but I can attest that after 30 years of snapping photos [mostly nature, weather and music performances] that this quote has lived up to its claim.  I spent quite a good deal of time behind a camera — until I saw something happening to the landscape of this country that made me put it down in exchange for a pen.  My photos weren’t loud enough for what I needed to say.
Migrant Mother’ – Dorthea Lange, 1936
‘Migrant Mother’ was Lange’s most famous image — an iconic photo in American history. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state of California for what was then the Resettlement Administration.  There are no known restrictions on the use of Lange’s “Migrant Mother” series of images. A rights statement from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information with the black-and-white negatives is available online to this day.  
 
According to Wiki: The Resettlement Administration (RA) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency that, between April 1935 and December 1936, relocated struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government.  The organization had four divisions: Rural Rehabilitation, Rural Resettlement, Land Utilization, and Suburban Resettlement.
 
The goal of moving 650,000 people from 100,000,000 acres of agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land was unpopular among the majority in Congress. This goal threatened to deprive influential farm owners of their tenant workforce. The RA was thus left with enough resources to relocate only a few thousand people from 9,000,000 acres and build several greenbelt cities, which planners admired as models for a cooperative future that never arrived.
 
…a cooperative future that never arrived.
 
Seems the one that was admired then is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity. Economic hardship, which on the surface does not appear to be anywhere near as bad as Dorthea’s photo suggests — but then, the government isn’t going to hire a photographer to go out and take those photos.  Now that press is owned by ‘influential owners’ who would be ‘deprived’ of their advertising dollars. They don’t want us to see those images but we see them without cameras.  In our neighborhoods, cities and streets.  Same as war images that are no longer shown or are photoshopped into so much propaganda, or the mainstream ‘wag the dog’ embedded reporting.  
 
Media has changed since 1936 and has had some glorious moments of integrity.  The time of courageous reporting from Edward R. Murrow is past and we have revisited (and somehow stooped lower) than McCarthyism.  There are few dissenting voices of reason on the idiot box.  That is something else that is coming up on its own as a matter of necessity — with internet freedoms — how long that will last is a matter of opinion and speculation.  Eventually, all opinion and speculation will mean nothing without electricity.  
 
Something that hasn’t changed since 1936 — agriculturally exhausted, worn-out land.  Now we have a population that has more than tripled because of cheap oil.  Add global warming to the mix, failing infrastructure and resource depletion and we’re staring down the barrel of an even larger humanitarian crisis in the United States. And what is popular with Congress?  Monsanto. 
 
The best thing for it IS a cooperative future.  Permaculture heals the land and so does community working together.  That cooperative future is arriving whether the government points a camera at it or not.
 
No electricity isn’t so scary for some photographers . . . natural light is best anyway.
Moonrise , Hernandez , NM – 1941 / Ansel Adams

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