Swinehart Reviews Book on Photographer Dorothea Lange

A book review written by Kirk Swinehart, assistant professor of history, was published in the Dec. 18 issue of The Chicago Tribune. Swinehart reviewed Dorthea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, by Linda Gordon.

The photographer Dorothea Lange ” is such a figure, a woman whose quietly searing depictions of the American Dream gone awry reflect her own innermost struggles and resonate powerfully with our own,” Swinehart writes. “Linda Gordon, a professor of history at New York University, shows how in her arresting new biography of Lange. In Gordon’s telling, Lange emerges as something substantially greater than America’s pioneering photo-chronicler of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. She becomes ‘America’s preeminent photographer of democracy,’ equal parts celebrant and critic of our fondest ideals.

Lange is known for her iconic 1936 photograph “Migrant Mother,” however Swinehart writes that this was hardly her darkest record of America’s darkest moments. During the Second World War, Lange documented the interment of Japanese Americans in some 800 heartrending photographs. Suppressed by the federal government, these photographs remained buried in the National Archives, all but forgotten, until 2006.

“In its grace, precision, and infinite subtlety, Gordon’s biography resembles Lange herself,” Swinehart says in the review. “Indeed, the whole is founded on a bedrock of human decency that Lange would have admired.”