Dyanna Taylor shares takeaways from documentary about her grandmother Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange photographed this Japanese American waiting to go to a detention camp in 1942. (Images in this post courtesy of Dyanna Taylor.)
By: Mallary Jean Tenore, Sept. 3. 2014
Award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor spent 11 years creating her latest documentary, “Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” which premiered on PBS last Friday.
The two-hour-long documentary highlights the life of Taylor’s grandmother — iconic photographer Dorothea Lange, who is best known for her “Migrant Mother” photograph taken during the Depression.
Taylor’s documentary, which has received many glowing reviews, looks at the breadth of Lange’s professional work instead of pigeonholing her as a Depression-era photographer. It also explores her role as a wife, mother, and grandmother.
“At first it all seemed logical that I [would] make a film about my grandmother,” Taylor said via email. “But it dawned on me that the creative collaboration and remarkable relationship between my grandfather Paul S. Taylor and Dorothea was a story I also wanted to tell.”
“Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” Taylor said, is a story about Dorothea’s “three muses — her first husband Maynard Dixon, then my grandfather Paul S. Taylor, and then the third of course, the camera.”
Taylor, who spoke at ivoh’s 2014 Mindful Media summit and screened her film there, said she learned many lessons while creating the documentary:
“That creatives’ lives never exists in a vacuum. That the cross-pollination of relationships create the artist, too. That a woman’s situation as artist is often different than a man’s and that she is judged differently. And ultimately that Dorothea’s span of work was far greater than the narrow view in which she is considered — that of a ‘dust bowl’ Depression era photographer.”
If you missed the premiere of “Grab a Hunk of Lightning,” which is part of PBS’ “American Masters” series, you’ll still have a chance to watch it; only about half of the PBS stations nationwide have aired it so far.
PBS has also published an online version of the full documentary, which you can watch below.