Grab a Hunk of Lightning is a 90-minute film on the life, loves and work of photographer, Dorothea Lange, known for her famous image “The Migrant Mother”. The film, directed by her granddaughter, Dyanna Taylor, will premiere August 29 on the PBS series American Masters.
In 1933, Dorothea Lange, unable to stand the discrepancy between her profitable safe portrait studio and what was happening in the depression torn streets of San Francisco, set herself a challenge: to dare to go to the streets, to photograph "what was really there", to come back, develop, print, to see if she could "Grab a Hunk of Lightning". That challenge and her fulfillment of it changed the course of her life.
Beyond a narrative of America's 20th century, this film is more than a biographical re-telling of an artist’s life. It illuminates the decades of the 1920’s-1960’s while revealing the personal price of Lange’s photographic achievements. Her willful and strenuous preparations for her groundbreaking solo photographic exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in NY is syncopated by her story, inviting you to look closely at Lange's muses - her two husbands Maynard Dixon and Paul Taylor – her family dynamics, and her mission with her true muse - the camera. We see her great silver gelatin successes, and at times her personal failures. As the film reveals the surprising breadth of her work, it also reveals the will and sacrifices behind a creative life.
Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning was produced by the Katahdin Foundation, supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) America's Media Makers grant.