Censored Photos By Dorothea Lange

A sale this week at Swann Auction Galleries is described thusly: ‘These five silver prints come from an archive of censored photographs commissioned by the US government’s War Relocation Authority (WRA) in 1942 to document the internment of Japanese American citizens, which later prompted official apology and reparations. Lange was invited to do a WRA commission after her success achieving success with her Depression-era social documentary photographs for the Farm Security Administration, such as White Angel Bread Line, shot at a San Francisco soup kitchen in 1933. True to her humanist roots, “Lange depicted the inhumanity of relocating Americans and the injustice

of the internment programme after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor”, says Daile Kaplan, the auction house’s vice president and director of photographs and photobooks. The government, however, felt they revealed too much, and seized and transferred the negatives for this portfolio—which show Japanese Americans who were evacuated to the Manzanar internment camp in California—to the National Archives, where they remained unseen for decades. These images are the first from this commission to surface at auction.’

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