Daughter of Tenant Farmer Churning Butter (1939) by Dorothea Lange


Dorothea Lange‘s original title was “Daughter of Negro Tenant Churning Butter. Randolph County, North Carolina,  July 1939” – and while I don’t believe in pretending history didn’t happen, or anachronistically reinventing the past for that matter, I really would feel bad for “Negro” to be the search term that brought any visitors to this blog.

Dorothea Lange‘s pioneering photographic work detailing the lives of the people she came across as she criss-crossed the South (during the spring and summers from 1936-39) has been somewhat overlooked. This is what she said:

“The whole point of remembering these people is to try to find out what it is that forms you. I really and seriously tried, with every person I photographed, to reveal them as closely as I could.” Dorothea Lange, quoted on Buzzfeed.com

The details of the portrait of the young girl are revealing: her blurred hand as she continued working while being photographed; the strange but striking pleated dress that almost looks as if it were meant to be worn the other way round; the lovely, simple torque necklace; her bare feet; the two braids – despite her undoubted poverty, she would have looked beautiful and rather elegant.

(All thanks to Christian for introducing me to a repost of this image, among others.)


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