Last Updated on 04/13/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
Here’s your chance to own a set of rare vintage prints of Dorothea Lange’s previously censored photographs
Dorothea Lange remains one of the most important and renowned documentary photographers today, best known for her iconic Migrant Mother photograph. However, that 1936 portrait is just one of her gripping visual stories of families faced with hardship. Most likely unknown to many, she also once took photos of Japanese-Americans who were evacuated to an internment camp in California in the early 1940s. A rare selection of these photographs is set to go on auction for the first time.
The five vintage silver prints by Lange, with an estimated value of $30,000 – $45,000, will be auctioned at the Swann Auction Galleries beginning April 19, along with the works of other photography greats such as Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Peter Hujar, Saul Leiter and Joel Meyerowitz. Last year, Anchor Editions began selling prints of 20 of Lange’s photographs from this assignment, but of course, vintage prints carry a higher value for collectors and photography historians.
The photos give a preview of her work commissioned by the federal War Relocation Authority agency in 1942, serving as photographic records of the evacuation and relocation of Japanese-American citizens to Manzanar. Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the resulting public outcry affected the lives of over 100,000 Japanese-American men, women, and children living on the west coast.
Lange, whose intent was to portray the injustice of the internment program, captured several candid images that reveal the “emotional effects of such uprooting.” Each photograph contains her credit, the location, the caption, date, inventory number, and the name of the commissioning agency. Four of the prints also come with attached caption labels. In response to her stance on the program, the photographs she took (including the negatives) were impounded during the war, then deposited in the National Archives, where they were kept unpublished and unseen for decades.
Visit Swann Auction Galleries’ catalogue page for more details about the collection and the upcoming auction.
All images used courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries via Aperture.