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Tess Taylor reads from Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange

On a Thursday I went to see Dorothea Lange’s “Words and Pictures” at MoMa, and on the following Monday, as luck would have it, I heard Tess Taylor read at KGB from her new book that the museum had commissioned her to write to accompany the Lange exhibition: Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange.

Lange was a good writer. She jotted down impressions of the landscapes, the crops migrants were picking, and what her subjects were saying, preliminary scrawled thoughts that were very much like poems before her photographs appeared. Tess Taylor, who lives in California, was able to read all of the notes Lange took by going to the museums, universities, and other locations where they have been archived over the years.

I teach immigrants to speak English, and one thing I like to do is to put students into groups because two heads are better than one when it comes to learning, and even better when there are three. “One brain plus one brain equals one brain,” I tell my students. As I listened to Tess Taylor read, I thought of the poet and the photographer working together to create what I was hearing.

Living in the present as we speak then and now don’t seem so different, and even though the world seems bleak, pandemics and inequities, in the end there is hope in collaboration, and clarity in the inspiration. Listen and see.




Tess Taylor, 2019



Dorothea Lange, 1936



Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange is published my MoMa. You can check it out here:

http://www.tess-taylor.com/last-west



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