Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
In 1954, the great American photographer Dorothea Lange went to Ennis, County Clare in Ireland on assignment for LIFE magazine. The photos she took – informal portraits, pictures of people at work and play – are, of course, remarkable. They don’t prettify the grimness of rural life, but they catch the weathered vitality of the people, and their sociability. You see their good humour, the amused forbearance of the men, the honest curiosity of the children, confronted as they were by a 60-year-old American woman with a white beret and a gigantic camera. Sifting through the Lange archive at the Oakland Museum, more than 40 years later, filmmaker Dierdre Lynch found Lange’s field notes along with an envelope marked ‘Photos to Send’, containing the names and addresses of the people she’d met in Ireland.
The address list serves as the road map for this film in which Lynch retraces Lange’s steps to find the people and the places in the photographs. The economics of farming life may have changed completely, but the sociability endures. Many have died, some of them tragically young, and many have emigrated, but there are plenty still who recall their encounters with Lange and welcome the filmmaker into their homes just as they welcomed the photographer. Not all the stories they tell are happy ones. One woman sees her adolescent portrait as encapsulating the anger she still feels at the brutal punishment of children advocated at the time by the church. As they talk movingly about their lives and about the lives and personalities of those who have gone, Lynch weaves the photographs and contemporary footage into an intensely lyrical evocation of the passage of time. — BG
"Photos to Send is an original film with a remarkable grace. Carefully wandering over the hills of Ireland with a kind, melodic, photographic eye, this film takes an unusual path to a people, a country and an art form. Meandering at times through the windy back roads, the filmmaker sees beauty and humanity in every hillock and documents these moments with reverence." — Golden Gate Jury Award, San Francisco International Film Festival 2002