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Major WWII wartime exhibition in Sydney

Capturing the Home Front, a major wartime photographic exhibition featuring work by famous American photographer Dorothea Lange and others, is open at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney until February 16.

Shipyard workers line up for pay. Photo: Dorothea Lange.

The exhibition depicts life back at home, rather than fighting on the front line, and includes images of wartime industry, general life, Japanese internment, and The Great Depression era.

Lange’s collection consists of original Depression and WWII photographs, on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. The exhibition also features images by Japanese-American photographer, Toyo Miyatake.

Boys behind barbed wire. Photo: Toyo Miyatake.

Lange was commissioned by the US government in the 1930s to travel the country and document the devastation wrought on Americans by The Great Depression. During WWII she was commissioned by the US Office of War Information to capture America’s factories, shipyards and farms as the nation went to war.

Her unvarnished depictions of the forced internment of Japanese Americans to inland camps, in places like the infamous Californian Manzanar concentration camp, were apparently considered too realistic and raw for public consumption. Ansel Adams was later commissioned to re-document the desolate camp at Manzanar in a better light.

”My own approach is based upon three considerations: First – hands off! Whenever I photograph I do not molest or tamper with or arrange,’ Lange was recorded saying. ‘Second – a sense of place. I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third – a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present.’

Grandfather and grandson. Photo: Dorothea Lange.

Miyatake’s images showing at Capturing The Home Front also show life at Manzanar. He smuggled a lens into the camp, and built a camera to capture a raw and confronting view of camp life. He was later granted permission to set up an photo studio in the camp, and later became an official photographer.

The images are considered a unique and intimate side of the war camps that many Japanese were forced into in America.

The exhibition is rounded off with photos from Australian collections, including work by Sam Hood, William Cranstone, Jim Fitzpatrick and Hedley Cullen. They show Australian wartime industry and Japanese internment, as well as family and country life on our side of the Pacific.

Lange, born in 1895, began her career as a portrait photographer but moved into documentary during the Depression, using a large Graflex camera to record her surroundings. She died in 1965 of oesophageal cancer.

Capturing The Home Front is showing until February 16 at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney. Tickets are $20. Click here for more info.

Smiling soldier. Photo: Edward Cranstone.

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