You don’t know what you’re doing

I was sitting in a dark theatre, entranced by the black and white portrait on the screen.

A freckle-faced Irish child with wonky teeth and a cloth cap crinkled his eyes as he looked into the lens of Dorothea Lange. It was 1954 and Lange had been on assignment for Time Life Magazine when she captured him on film. (This is her on the shoot in Ireland.)

That day in the theatre I became obsessed with this captivating series, brought to life in the 2002 film ‘Photos to Send‘, a documentary made by Canadian director Dierdre Lynch, who had gained access to the archives from the shoot.

In 2002 she flew to County Clare in Western Ireland to find and film some of the amazing characters Lange had photographed 44 years earlier.

And find them she did.

When Lynch met them, and showed them the original photographs, there were tears of joy and sadness as they recognised themselves, their brothers, mothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

In the years since the shots were made, many had passed away, some had gone missing, and some had never ever had a photograph to remember them by prior to that moment.

A case for documenting ‘ordinary’ people, places and their stories, through photography and motion gets no greater than that.

The effect of showing those images so many years later was heartbreaking and moving, and yet Dorothea Lange had no idea what she was doing, except her job.

In a previous post I said you are not a photographer. You’re a problem solver with a good personality who can translate a brief into stunning imagery and motion. (You can read that post here )

But you’re even more than that.

You’re a historian, an archivist, and a preserver of memories and stories, and you have an important part to play in how people in the future view and understand the past.

You may not ever know what you’ve done, but future generations will.

So please keep doing it.

If you need help deciding what you’re going to do next, you may want to consider joining the next Series Project workshop, starting 12th April. You can find more info here, or book a call with me to discuss your suitability here.

March is Women’s Month, so we can keep celebrating women like Dorothea Lange and Diedre Lynch for a while yet, which is just as well, because there are so many incredible women photographers out there. To see some brilliant personal work by female photographers I’ve worked with please have a look at my Insta feed– I’m adding a new project almost every day.