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Exhibition of Photographs by Dorothea Lange at Brigham Young University Museum of Art
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965), Couple Seated on Porch, Gunlock, Utah, 1953, Gelatin silver print, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds donated by Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley. ©Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

PROVO, UTAH.- In August 1953, renown American photographer Dorothea Lange traveled to southern Utah where she met up with her long-time friend Ansel Adams. The two photographers spent three weeks photographing the landscape and people of Toquerville, Gunlock and St. George with the intention of publishing the work in LIFE magazine.

Lange’s enthusiasm for her subject yielded hundreds of photographs from which she composed an extended essay of 135 photographs, including images by Ansel Adams. Thirty-five of those photographs with text by Daniel Dixon appeared under the title “Three Mormon Towns” in the September 6, 1954 issue of LIFE.

“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns,” a new exhibition at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, features 21 of Lange’s photographs from this series acquired by the museum. The exhibition also draws from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago, and the collection of John and Lolita Dixon.

The 62 vintage prints in the exhibition, accompanied by excerpts from Dixon’s original text, examine Lange’s lasting interest in the people of southern Utah and their relationship with the land, their heritage and the transformation of the West in post-war America.

“Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns” will be on view in the Warren & Alice Jones and Paul & Betty Boshard galleries on the lower level of the museum from Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 through Saturday, April 30, 2011.

“Subtle and poetic, the series of photographs that has come to be known as ‘Three Mormon Towns’ is a bridge between Lange’s famous Depression Era photographs and her detailed photo essays of the 1950s,” Turnbow said.

Utah attracted Lange’s interest when she and her first husband, Maynard Dixon, spent the summer of 1933 camping and working in Zion National Park. She originally intended to photograph southern Utah with the support of a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 1941; however, a family crisis, followed by the onset of World War II prevented Lange from traveling to Utah. Yet, the desire to photograph the Mormon towns of southern Utah never faded. In 1953, Lange returned to the place that had captured her attention decades earlier.

“While Lange’s photographs depict communities bound together by hard work and religion in the formidable landscape of the Colorado Plateau, they also explore the changes that were beginning to affect not only Utah, but rural communities throughout the United States,” Turnbow said. “‘Three Mormon Towns’ was a study of contrasts—of old and new, of quiet villages and a growing city, of deep roots and transient highways. In this series, Lange memorialized the dignity and simplicity of agrarian life in light of post-war urbanization.”

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