As you can see, I have a vanity web site where I stick some of my photographs and publish blog posts full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Vanity, you question? Since the URL is tomfrerichsphoto.com, the goal is painfully obvious that it is to feed my ego. Most posts are accompanied by some photograph I took, but some are text alone. Unfortunately, the WordPress theme I’m using messes up the spacing on the archive page for all text-only posts. It wants some sort of image to balance things out. This is the image I decided to use as my filler, my placeholder.
The photograph included in the image is the iconic Migrant Mother taken by Dorothea Lange during the dirty thirties for the Farm Security Administration. So why would I use that image?
I suppose because it is one of my favorites. It is not only a well-composed shot of an interesting subject, it also speaks. Ms. Lange may have gotten the facts wrong when she took it–she reported that the family had sold their tires to get food, which wasn’t true, but she captured the spirit. There is desperation, yet hope in that portrait.
Another reason I like the photograph is because its a wonderful example when I’m channeling photographer-teacher David duChemin. His chant of “craft is good, vision is better” resonates with me. The subject of this striking photograph, the mother, is out of focus. The sharpest part of the picture is the hair of the little girl seen over the mother’s shoulder on the right. The craft here is a bit off…the vision is golden.
Let me add that that negative was retouched–the old time version of “Photoshopping.” There’s a thumb that’s been removed from the pole holding the tent up. Take that! ye photo purists who bemoan the loss of the integrity of film processes! I like tilting at windmills on occasion, and this photograph provides me a lance.
But perhaps the most important reason is that the negative is in the possession of the Library of Congress. The image was made for one of FDR’s alphabet agencies, and there are no rights restrictions. I won’t get in trouble for violating someone’s copyright. And that is a very good thing for an arrogant, but cowardly web site creator.