Press Release: Sotheby's to auction 30 Depression-era photographs by Dorothea Lange

Bill Hendrie rescued 30 photographs of "Okie" migrants from a garbage bin at the San Jose Chamber of Commerce in the late 1960s because his family also came from Oklahoma and he said he could relate to them. During the next 40 years, aside from several attempts by his wife to return them to the trash, the photos were mostly forgotten. This spring, Hendrie's daughter, Marian Tankersley, rediscovered them when she was emptying out her parents' house after their deaths. She contacted experts who confirmed her suspicions: They are original prints made by the photographer Dorothea Lange, The Associated Press reports. Among them is "Migrant Mother," the legendary photo that symbolizes the era.

On Oct. 11, Sotheby's in New York will open bidding on Tankersley's set of 30 vintage, unretouched Lange photographs at its annual fall auction, AP says. The pre-bid estimate for the lot: $50,000 to $70,000. "Dorothea Lange is one of the most important photographers of the 20th century," said Christopher Mahoney, a vice president in Sotheby's photography department. "The photos are documents of a difficult time in American history. But also, in a lot of instances, they transcend their own time and place and speak universally of the human condition."
  The photographs, all mounted on weathered white cardboard and annotated either in Lange's hand or with a typewriter, are from approximately the same time, 1936-38. They feature different migrant families who had come to California from the Midwest to escape both the Depression and a devastating drought, AP says. Tankersley was surprised her family still had the photos. She said her father learned a few years ago from Oakland Museum of California curators that they were valuable, but he continued to store them in the folds of a sleeper-sofa. Tankersley thought they were lost when the couch was given away. She said her mother rediscovered them in a closet at the end of 2003.

Posted: Wed - September 28, 2005 at 12:09 PM