Notes: In this widely reproduced Lange image, a bulky white man appears to hold court while standing with one foot on the bumper of a car; five thin black men sit and stand behind him on the steps of a clapboard store. In the years immediately after she made the negative, this was one of Lange's most reproduced images: it appeared in U.S. Camera Annual 1939, Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices (1941), and Archibald MacLeish’s Land of the Free (1938). Most of the time, when this image is reproduced, the glimpse of a young white man holding a cigarette, which appears on the left edge, is cropped out.
Lange took this image while working for the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration (two WPA agencies). The most famous image from this period in her career is Migrant Mother, the iconic Depression-era photograph.
Lange's images from this era often have descriptive names rather than titles, and they have changed over time. This one is one of several images Lange took just a few moments apart, all labeled "Plantation Owner" on the Library of Congress website; this particular image is typically called "Plantation Owner with His Field Hands."
At the time she took this photograph, Lange was working for the federal government and so the negatives belonged to her employer. For decades they have been on deposit at the Library of Congress and for many years, anyone could ask the library to make prints from the negatives. In this case, the negative (as indicated on the back of the photograph), is LC-USF34-9599.
Image, 7-1/16 by 8-15/16 inches on 8-by-10 inch sheet.
Edition + Condition: A fine print, with notes about the negative used in pencil. With a faint two-line blue Library of Congress stamp. This image is printed dark, the way Lange herself printed it.
Prints from the Library of Congress are hard to date, but I suspect these are from the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Publication: Washington, DC: Library of Congress, (1936 but printed ca. 1980?).
Item No: #361976