Dorothea Lange, “Human Erosion in California” and “General Strike/Street Meeting, San Francisco”
(via J. Paul Getty Museum)
In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed published this past Sunday, Jaime O’Neill discusses the lack of iconography present to represent the current economic crisis. “The pain and suffering has only been superficially covered by the news media,” says O’Neill, “but it has surely not been addressed by our artists.” O’Neill reminds us that during the Great Depression, artists from all fields captured the pain and struggle of the nation within their various works: Steinbeck with his words, Guthrie with his tunes, and photographer Dorothea Lange with her series of painfully striking images. Future generations also sought to, as O’Neill says, “vivify” the experiences of Americans in hard times, including Bob Dylan singing “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” to Vietnam War protestors. And yet, the writer points out, there have been no bold works along these lines by the artists of our time. Even Dylan, O’Neill points out, now keeps his opinions to himself. And actually, it’s been the comedians who have been most outspoken about the issues. At the end of the piece, O’Neill says something that really resonates with me:
“As much as anything, the arts define the times, sketching a portrait of a moment in the life of the nation and the world, marking a period in ways it comes to be viewed by people who live through it and by people who come after. But the tale of our times is mostly being told by our unwillingness to tell it.”
What do you guys think about this, particularly as it relates to the photographers of our time? Certainly we are offered powerful glimpses at war and famine abroad by brave photojournalists every day. But what about photos documenting or commenting on the American experience?
Read Jaime O’Neill’s full article here.