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American Masters (2014 Season) – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning
Air date: 08/29/2014

THIRTEEN’s American Masters Series Co-Produces New Documentary about “Migrant Mother” Photographer Dorothea Lange by Her Granddaughter, Award-Winning Cinematographer Dyanna Taylor

 

Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning Premieres Nationwide Friday, August 29 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)

 

Preview video and connect with more than 200 cultural icons at pbs.org/americanmasters

 

Her celebrated photograph “Migrant Mother” is one of the most recognized and arresting images in the world, a haunting portrait that came to represent the suffering of America’s Great Depression. Yet few know the story, struggles and profound body of work of the woman behind the camera: Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – Oct. 11, 1965).

American MastersDorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, premiering nationwide Friday, August 29, 9-11 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), explores the life, passions and uncompromising vision of the influential photographer. Her enduring images document five turbulent decades of American history, including the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II Japanese American internment camps. Peabody- and five-time Emmy award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor — the granddaughter of Lange and writer/social scientist Paul Schuster Taylor — directs and narrates this intimate American Masters documentary.

Taylor, who learned to see the visual world through her grandmother’s eyes, combines family memories and journals with never-before-seen photos and film footage to bring Lange’s story into sharp focus. The result is a personal documentary of the artist whose empathy for people on the margins of society challenged America to know itself.

The film features newly discovered interviews and vérité scenes with Lange from her Bay Area home studio, circa 1962-1965, including work on her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Showcasing more than 800 works by Lange, her first husband Maynard Dixon and second husband Paul Schuster Taylor combined, American Masters — Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning reveals the camera as Lange’s first muse and the confluence of artists at work and in love. Explaining the impact of these relationships on Lange’s life and documentary photography style, filmmaker/narrator Dyanna Taylor demonstrates the challenges of balancing artistic pursuits and family.

The documentary weaves Lange telling her own story with new interviews of family, friends and colleagues, including Lange’s son Daniel Dixon; Lange’s goddaughter and biographer Elizabeth Partridge; Richard Conrad, Lange’s assistant for the MoMA exhibit; photographer Rondal Partridge, Lange’s assistant and son of photographers Imogen Cunningham and Roi Partridge; Becky Jenkins, Maynard Dixon’s granddaughter; Dr. Margot Taylor-Fanger, Paul Schuster Taylor’s daughter; and many others.

“My grandmother’s photographs grew out of her depth as a person. Ever since I began my career in filmmaking, I’ve wanted to make a film which would express the true breadth of her work and the ways she perceived the world,” said Dyanna Taylor, whose past work on American Masters films includes Ernest Hemingway: Rivers to the Sea and F. Scott Fitzgerald – Winter Dreams. “During my young years, as we spent time together, she taught me how to see, to understand that nothing is as it appears at first glance.”

“We are fortunate to have a family member, who is also a talented filmmaker, telling Dorothea Lange’s remarkable life story in a way that no one else possibly could,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters.

A DVD will be available October 21, 2014, from PBS Distribution. The film’s companion book, Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Chronicle Books) by Elizabeth Partridge, is available now.

Launched in 1986 by series creator Susan Lacy, American Masters has earned 26 Emmy Awards — including nine for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. Now in its 28th season on PBS, the series is a production of of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. WNET is the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations, and operator of NJTV. For more than 50 years, THIRTEEN has been a partner with the tri-state community, using its rich resources to inform and inspire the passionate people of New York and the world to better understand and address the issues that challenge our diverse communities.

To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, photos, outtakes, essays and other resources. American Masters is also seen on the WORLD channel, a 24/7, full-service multicast channel featuring public television’s signature nonfiction documentary, science and news programming, broadcast in nearly two-thirds of the United States.

Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning is a co-production of Raven Rouge, Inc., Katahdin Productions and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. Dyanna Taylor is producer, writer and director. Roberta Grossman is producer. David Leach is editor. Jami Sieber and Evan Schiller are original score composers. Susan Lacy, Michael Kantor and Lisa Thomas are executive producers.

American Masters is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Jack Rudin, Vital Projects Fund, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, and public television viewers. Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning is made possible by the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Cal Humanities.

 

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About WNET

As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.

 

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of AMERICAN MASTERS. No other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.
Dorothea Lange 1936_credit Rondal Partridge

Dorothea Lange with Zeiss Juwel Camera, 1937, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©1937, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

Dorothea Lange by Rondal Partridge

Dorothea Lange with Graflex, 1937, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©1937, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

Dorothea Lange 1936 by Paul S.Taylor

Dorothea Lange, 1937, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Paul S. Taylor, 1936

Migrant Mother

Dorothea Lange’s celebrated photograph “Migrant Mother” is one of the most recognized and arresting images in the world, a haunting portrait that came to represent the suffering of America’s Great Depression. The Library of Congress caption reads: "Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California." Pictured: Florence Owens Thompson with three of her children. Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1936

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Dorothea Lange’s first husband Maynard Dixon painting “en plein air,” as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange

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Dorothea Lange in San Francisco, circa 1920, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.”

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Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains, 1937, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Paul S. Taylor, 1937

The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California

“American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning” filmmaker and narrator Dyanna Taylor (left) with her grandmother Dorothea Lange, 1963. Photo Credit: Paul S. Taylor

The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California

"Dyanna, Stones in on Out-Stretched Hand,” circa 1961, captures the moment photographer Dorothea Lange challenged her granddaughter Dyanna Taylor, “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning” filmmaker and narrator, to see the visual world. Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, c. 1961

The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California

"Dyanna lying on her back in the grass" circa 1961, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Pictured: American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning” filmmaker and narrator Dyanna Taylor. Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, c. 1961

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“White Angel Breadline,” San Francisco, California, 1933, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1933

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Dorothea Lange and her second husband, writer/social scientist Paul Schuster Taylor, 1939, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©1939, 2014, Imogen Cunningham Trust

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“Woman and Child, Nile Village,” Egypt, 1963, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1963

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Dorothea Lange preparing for her unprecedented, one-woman career retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in her home studio, Berkeley, California, 1964, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©1964, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

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Dorothea Lange Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition, New York, New York, January 1966, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Rolf Peterson, 1966

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"Trees," Berkeley, California, 1957, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1957

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“Enforcement of Executive Order 9066. Japanese Children Made to Wear Identification Tags,” Hayward, California, 1942, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1942

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“US Highway 40, California,” 1956, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, 1956

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Dorothea Lange in her Bay Area home studio, 1964, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©1964, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

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“On the Beach at Steep Ravine 2.” Pictured: Dorothea Lange, circa 1961, as seen in “American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Photo Credit: ©c 1961, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives

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Peabody- and five-time Emmy award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor — the granddaughter of Lange and writer-social scientist Paul Schuster Taylor — directs and narrates “American Masters — Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.”

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Peabody- and five-time Emmy award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor — the granddaughter of Lange and writer-social scientist Paul Schuster Taylor — filming “American Masters — Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning” in January 2007. Dyanna Taylor is the documentary’s director and narrator. Photo Credit: Dixie Dixon