Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

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Sam Contis. _Untitled (Lange Series I-III)_. Photogravures. Courtesy the artist and Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery

Sam Contis. Untitled (Lange Series I-III). 2020

Artist, Sam Contis: My name is Sam Contis, and I'm an artist. And you're looking at three works that I've made in response to Dorothea Lange's work.

In the late 1950s, Dorothea Lange wrote a letter to Beaumont Newhall, who was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

The letter says, “I used to think in terms of single photographs, the bullseye technique. No more. A photographic statement is more what I now reach for. Therefore, these pairs, like a sentence of two words.”

I was really drawn to those groupings and her way of thinking about photography in a new way. And so it felt like the beginning of a conversation that I wanted to continue having with Lange.

And so, for example, this pairing, I've cropped in close in the same way that she cropped in close. First, this image of hands - this sort of grasping for something in the dark, really. And sometimes I feel like that's what you're doing as an artist, and that's what I think she was struggling with at the end of her life. She was grasping for new ways of seeing.

And I've balanced them with this other image that has an inherent tension to it. There is this push and pull, but also this embrace and holding. And it, in a way, talks about the push and pull of time, of relationships that I saw between myself and Dorothea.