Saturday, May 1, 2010

Historic Pittsboro: July 1939

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

During her work with the FSA, Dorothea Lange visited Pittsboro, NC on a Saturday afternoon in July of 1939. She was staying in Chapel Hill, and she would have traveled down highway 15, through the mill town of Bynum, across the Haw River and into Pittsboro from the north. It looks like she took a few shots of the approach to the Chatham County Court House as she came into town. She probably parked along Hillsboro Street when she got out of the car, mixed and mingled with the Saturday afternoon crowd.

Her photographic haul included an arresting shot of locals dressed up and conversing in front of the Poe building on the corner of Hillsboro and West Salisbury. For many years the building housed Edwards Antiques, and now boasts our neighborhood watering hole, the venerable City Tap.

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