Oakland Museum of California Exhibit Explores Pioneering Work of Dorothea Lange

Oakland Museum of California's new exhibit focusing on the works of Dorothea Lange opens this month, giving attendees a rare opportunity to examine a treasure trove of photographs and memorabilia belonging to the preeminent documentary photographer.

Lange's haunting photographs of the Great Depression and Japanese internment during World War II pioneered photography as a potent medium for social activism in the United States. Some of her most iconic works — from the images of gaunt-faced men withering in bread lines to the children crammed together in internment camps — were taken in the Bay Area, where the artist lived until her death in 1965. 

OMCA's exhibition will include more than 100 photographs; some billed as "rarely seen," along with personal artifacts, memos, and unedited proofs. A media room will play rare film clips of the artist talking about her work and methodology. 

Lange gifted her work to the museum 50 years ago. The exhibit is timed to honor that donation, while also offering unfamiliar visitors a chance to discover one of the museum's most treasured collections in its archive. 

Lange's photographs are known for their unflinching look at poverty, racism and exclusion in 20th century America, but the exhibit is outfitted with a few modern flares that invite audiences to draw parallels between the past and present. 

An interactive space will explore ways in which photo manipulation can be used to amplify an image's intended meaning and persuade its audience. Participants are invited to use cropping and sequencing tools to test their own ability to create arresting and thought-provoking images, while also critically examining the power those tools have to shape leading interpretations of important works. 

“This exhibition will present Lange’s work through an activist’s lens in which she provoked social and political change through her powerful imagery," touted Drew Johnson, who is the curator of photography and visual culture at OCMA. "It will also provide museum visitors the opportunity to see Lange’s works in a different light that stretches beyond fine art, as well as mimic her technique through interactives included in the exhibition.” 

Contemporary artists whose work shares thematic parallels with Lange's are also included in the exhibit. Local artists Ken Light, Jason Jacks and Janet Delaney are expected to bear on income inequality, racism and immigration through different mediums. 

"Dorothea Lange: The Politics of Seeing" will run until August 13. For more details, visit OMCA's website.

Contact Us