Migrante / Luz negra

“Migrant agricultural worker's family”, 1936 | Dorothea Lange

Durante la época de la Gran Depresión, el gobierno norteamericano conformó la Farm Security Administration con la finalidad de registrar las condiciones que se vivían en el campo. Una de las reproducciones más emblemáticas del grupo es “Migrant mother” (1936) de Dorothea Lange, que forma parte de una serie paradójicamente poco conocida.

La fotografía aquí expuesta, fue clasificada por La Biblioteca del Congreso de Estados Unidos con el título “Migrant agricultural worker’s family” (1936). La imagen muestra a una mujer cargando a un bebé, y a un niño pequeño recargando su cabeza sobre su hombro. A diferencia de la fotografía más icónica, en este encuadre los tres personajes equilibran su participación y aportan un valor emotivo distinto que se observa a través de la expresión en sus rostros.

El organismo gubernamental contrató a diversos fotoperiodistas, a quienes asignó la tarea de capturar por medio de la cámara la realidad vivida por miles de trabajadores para denunciar así las condiciones por las que atravesaban, y mejorarlas. Sin embargo, la paradoja en esta serie se encuentra cuando se observan las seis partes que la conforman y se analiza el papel que jugó la fotógrafa para modificar las poses de la mujer y sus hijos.

¿Qué tan necesario es el respeto a la naturalidad de los retratados?, ¿qué tanto debe evitarse la dirección por parte del fotógrafo? En las imágenes de Dorothea Lange, los protagonistas ganan importancia precisamente por el semblante que muestran ante la cámara, la cual —por la longitud de los objetivos empleados y el tamaño de los dispositivos de la época— se encuentra cercana y visible, lo que propicia un cambio en su actitud.

La iluminación natural de la escena mostrada en “Migrant agricultural worker’s family” produce sombras difuminadas y tenues, lo que nos permite suponer que la imagen fue capturada en la tarde. La medición en la exposición permite que observemos detalles en las zonas más oscuras, como en el cabello de la madre y en la lámpara que se encuentra a un costado; el blanco se observa en el cielo sobreexpuesto que pierde detalle, pero también en el anillo que porta ella y en una pequeña parte de la ropa del bebé.

El anillo toma un valor de contraste en la escena, pues nos permite imaginar el apego que su dueña siente hacia él y que la lleva a conservarlo a pesar de las condiciones que la rodean: la manga derecha de su ropa se observa desgastada —deshilachada— en su parte más baja, y en la superior se percibe rasgada.

Por el contrario, el contraste tonal es escaso; las variaciones en la escala de grises no son tan notorias a pesar de que se encuentra una amplia gama de matices. Este elemento es sustituido por la nitidez de la toma, la cual muestra en foco a los retratados y pierde su intensidad en el fondo del que no se percibe detalle alguno, aunque puedan adivinarse el campo abierto y los árboles.

Florence Owens Thompson es la mujer que permitió a Lange congelar uno de los retratos más icónicos de la época. Acompañada de tres de sus siete hijos, la campesina permaneció en el anonimato por cerca de cuarenta años, pues la fotógrafa nunca le preguntó su nombre. La identidad de Owens fue descubierta por un reportero de la agencia AP después de la muerte de Lange.

El ceño fruncido de la protagonista discrepa con la expresión tranquila del niño que —despeinado y con el rostro sucio— mira hacia abajo con tranquilidad. El personaje más pequeño se muestra ajeno al encuadre mientras descansa en los brazos de su madre, que no aparenta los 32 años que tenía en el momento en que Dorothea Lange capturó su rostro como uno de los más representativos de una época de crisis y de rupturas.

| RMM | GSS | Luz negra | @Versalisima |

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