The image below is a photo taken in 1938It by Dorothea Lange entitled ‘Tractored Out – Childress County, Texas’.
It is a black and white photo and although this may be a testament to the time period in which it was taken, it also enhances the effect of lighting and shadows in the image and the political meaning behind it. The house is off centre yet contained within the thirds of the image. The ploughed fields in the foreground hold your attention for the longest period of time before leading your eyes towards the house where it is abruptly cut off. These lines also serve to extend the image and add to its size.
The skyline is very bright and contrasts with the shadows and lightness that pervade the ploughed field. These shadows make the lines much more bold and force the audience to use them as a guideline for the way the image is meant to be read.
Lange’s photography wanted to capture both poverty and the agricultural system which are quite often linked. The workers are often isolated and will never meet their boss nor their coworkers. The image speaks of the Great Depression and the trauma it brought. This isolated house in the middle of this dilapidated field where nothing grows is precisely what is needed to evoke the emotion that Lange is trying to convey. That lonely idea and the never-ending feeling as the ploughed lines lead off into the distance.
Knowing the intricacies and details of the image as well as the political motivation we were tasked with recreating the image. We drove to the Wollongong Botanical Gardens and from there hiked our way up a hill to find this small but old house. The lawn had been recently mown and so we found ourselves moving the grass around in order to recreate these lines as seen in Lange’s photo. We then took the image back to photoshop and manipulated it in the short amount of time we had to create this:
Though quite similar in many aspects and given the amount of time we had it is a fairly close representative, it did not quite capture the same feeling as Lange. The political side has been vastly lost however it could be argued that the contrast between this house looking as if it is in the middle of the countryside and the reality of it being surrounded by suburbs and university chaos, could speak to the some political elements today.
It was interesting exercise in all the pieces that need to come together in order to translate an idea into an image that stands out and speaks for itself. It is much more difficult than it seems and Lange certainly did not have the wonders of Photoshop like ourselves!