Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures

14 / 15

Dorothea Lange. Paul's Hands. 1957

Gelatin silver print, printed 1965, 7 9/16 × 7 3/8" (19.3 × 18.7 cm). Purchase

Artist, Sam Contis: I think Dorothea saw the expressive possibilities in hands.

My name is Sam Contis. I'm an artist.

I was working in the Dorothea Lange archive at the Oakland Museum of California, and I saw a picture of Dorothea Lange and her second husband, Paul Taylor, embracing. Dorothea didn’t physically take the picture. She's taken this larger negative and she's cropped in very close and made a print that just shows these hands on an anonymous back. And so I understood that it was her body in the photograph. And that the hands were the hands of Paul Taylor. And I thought that was just such a beautiful gesture in so many ways.

I also really liked the way she's printed it. The figures, to my mind, become immortalized. They could be statues. They look like marble or stone carvings.

And the title, “_Paul's Hands_”, gives it this very personal touch and personal feeling. It feels like a really loving gesture, both as a nod to her husband, but also finding that thing that you love in a photograph, and wanting to get closer to it and holding on that particular moment in an image.