American Photography from the Great Depression at the Lowry

 

Over 200 iconic and less famous photographs commissioned to document the depression in 1930s America is on at the Lowry, Salford, until January 2, 2005. The exhibition coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Wall Street Crash, and is sponsored by the US embassy in London.

October 9, 2004 -- THIS IS AMERICA
Documentary photographs of the 1930s and 1940s
2 October 2004 - 2 January 2005

The Lowry continues its commitment to exhibiting photography with this major exhibition of 200 historic 每 as well as little known - images from Depression America. The 1930s and 40s were decades in which interest was taken in the previously 'hidden' landscapes of poverty. LS Lowry's paintings of this period demonstrate the same impulse, and This is America complements the exhibition, Lowry's Mean Streets of the 1930s and 40s.

The images in This is America are by eight photographers, all but one of whom worked on Franklin D Roosevelt's New Deal "Farm Security Administration" (FSA) project. Some of the images displayed are world famous, others less well known, and the combined effect will give a new and deeper insight into the physical and human landscape of the Great Depression.

The exhibition will start with works by Dorothea Lange (1895-1965). Originally a fashionable portrait photographer, during the Depression
Lange started photographing the poor and unemployed who were on the streets outside her studio. A number of works from her "Migrant Mother" series will be shown together to show how the final work - arguably the best known photograph ever taken - was constructed using her studio portraiture techniques.

Ben Shahn (1899-1969) photographed broadly similar themes to Dorothea Lange, but his work is less formally controlled. Originally trained as
a painter, Shaihn also used an angled camera to "snatch" images of people who were often unaware they were being photographed.

A series of works from Walker Evans' (1903-75) book "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" will show how Evans emphasised that dignity and pride can still flourish in conditions of great poverty. In contrast will be pictures by the only photographer in the exhibition who was not employed by the FSA project, Margaret Bourke-White (1904-71), in particular from her book "You Have Seen Their Faces". In these images the despair of poverty is much more in evidence than its dignity.

Arthur Rothstein (1915-85), who has been called "the Ansel Adams of erosion", shows how using inappropriate farming methods turned fertile
land into desert. His works were carefully constructed - for example, he moved a skull to give a more dramatic shadow in "The bleached skull
of a steer on the dry sun-baked sand of the South Dakota Badlands". His photographs of closed down banks in the Mid West can be said to summarise the Depression in a single image. Evicted sharecroppers and protesters along Route 61 bring the underlying conflict to life.

The imagery of conflict continues with Marion Post Wolcott's (1910-90) works. These include photographs of picket lines waiting for strike-
breaking workers. Her work also shows how globalisation was already increasing in power - her images of the manufactured Pepsi-Cola logo
contrasting with the hand-painted strikers' banners, her theme being the loss of the rural American idyll to big business. The titles often sum up the power of the work - for example "Houses which have been condemned by the Board of Health but are still occupied by Negro migratory workers, Belle Glade, Florida".

Russell Lee (1903-86) created images that show the plight and dignity of black families, including slum conditions in which they lived. In one image what at first appears to be a bombed out street turns out to be "merely" an image of abject urban poverty. Included in the selections of Marion Post Wolcott and Russell Lee will be colour photographs 每 overturning our view of this as a 'black and white' era

The exhibition ends with works by Gordon Parks (born 1912), the only black photographer who worked on the FSA project. His works follow a
day in the life story of one person. The biographical portrait is of Ella Watson, a government cleaner bringing up 5 children on an income of $1080 per year. Normally the images would be of the people whose offices she cleaned - the government officials and men of power. This
series brings the normally invisible Ella to life, and shows that her work is as valid and important as that of the unseen officials whose
offices she cleans. The image of her posed with her mop and broom in a government office next to a US flag is one of the more iconic in the exhibition.

Mark Durden, guest curator of This is America for The Lowry, commented: "This show will present a distinctive selection of important documentary photographic images made during Franklin D Roosevelt's "New Deal". Including both canonical and lesser-known photos, the exhibition places emphasis on the social dynamics behind the documentary practices of eight photographers. This is America will also include lesser-known colour photographs, which radically disrupt our view of this period in American history, which tends to be linked to black & white images."

Lindsay Brooks, Head of Galleries at The Lowry, added: "What will be fascinating about this exhibition is the emphasis it places on giving status to "ordinary" people. "

For further information about This is America please contact Alan Sykes on T 016977-2228 or M 0777-361 5170 email: e-mail protected from spam bots
or Michelle Bowey, Media Relations Manager at The Lowry on 0161 876 2037 or e-mail protected from spam bots

For images of This is America visit www.picturesforpress.co.uk to download a picture from the 'forthcoming exhibitions' section.
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NOTES TO EDITORS

GALLERY INFORMATION
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays M50 3AZ
Information & Box Office Telephone 0870 787 5793
www.thelowry.com

The Lowry offers a programme of modern and contemporary art of diversity and appeal. The Lowry collection itself is presented in a dynamic way, with displays changing regularly. Temporary exhibitions often complement the collections, through themed exhibitions about the urban or industrial environment, empty landscapes, or contemporaries of L S Lowry.

? Hidden: The Secret Life of Lowry's art    17 July 每 8 Jan 2005    
? Mean Streets: Lowry's art 1920-1940    21 July - 2 Jan 2005
? Thermo 04                    25 Sep 每 2 Jan 2004
? This is America                2 Oct 每 2 Jan 2005

Gallery Opening Times:
Galleries open everyday 11am 每 5pm
Admission to the Galleries is FREE. On arrival, visitors need an admission ticket from the Galleries Desk. We encourage donations to support the Galleries and the care of the L S Lowry Collection.

FREE FAMILY SUNDAYS, a brand new series of fun family events, all free of charge, taking place between 11am and 3pm on the last Sunday of every month.


 
 
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