In our world changing at warp speed, photographers more than ever understand that by following a subject over a long period of time does yield more insights than snapshots do. Photographer Dorothea Lange immortalized a migrant mother in 1936, the year in which she documented rural poverty in the United States, commissioned by the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Forty years later, journalist/photographer Bill Ganzel traced the woman in Lange’s photograph, a year before her passing. This is the portrait of Florence Owens Thompson, labor migrant from Oklahoma. Thompson was quoted in 1978 as saying: “I wish she [Lange] hadn’t taken my picture. I can’t get a penny out of it. She didn’t ask my name. She said she wouldn’t sell the pictures. She said she’d send me a copy. She never did.” Though the biggest revelation, perhaps, is that Thompson was not a white American, but a Cherokee. Would this powerful portrait of themigrant mother have been equally celebrated if her ancestry was known at the time?
Frank van der Stok Frank van der Stok (b. 1967) is a curator, editor, essayist and intermediary for artists and art institutions. He also works as an editor and producer of artists’ books.
Kill our Icons pleas for a rethinking of the iconic photos that are part of our collective memory. Kill our Icons proposes alternative images without apparent iconic value which indirectly tell more pregnant stories than the types of images calling for linear cause-and-effect explanation.