Dixie Forum to host lecture on Adams, Lange’s ‘Three Mormon Towns’
By Alexis McClain
January 22, 2019
Brigham Young University associate professor and author Dr. James R. Swensen will present about Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange’s 1953 photojournalism project, “Three Mormon Towns,” at the next installment of Dixie State University’s weekly lecture series Dixie Forum: A Window on the World.
“A Portrait of St. George, Gunlock and Toquerville” is set to take place at noon on Jan. 29 in the Dunford Auditorium, located in the Browning Resource Center on the Dixie State campus. Admission is free, and the public is encouraged to attend.
In his Dixie Forum presentation, Swensen will discuss how Adams and Lange came to Southern Utah to create a story for Life Magazine in 1953. The photographers’ resulting collaboration, which focused on the towns of Toquerville, Gunlock and St. George, would become known as “Three Mormon Towns.” Swensen will explore the ways in which the collaboration provides a window into the lives of two of the 20th century’s most important photographers as well as the communities they documented. Additionally, the lecture will explore the reasons why a project that once held such promise ended in disillusionment.
Swensen, who teaches art history and the history of photography at BYU, has conducted extensive research on the art and photography of the American West. He is the author of “Picturing Migrants: The Grapes of Wrath and New Deal Documentary Photography” and “In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange’s Three Mormon Towns Collaboration.”
Additionally, Swensen received the 2016-19 Butler Young Scholar from the Charles Redd Center for Western American Studies and the LeRoy Axland Best Utah History Article Award for his work on C.R. Savage’s photograph of a mass Shivwit baptism in St. George.
Dixie Forum is a weekly lecture series designed to introduce the St. George and Dixie State communities to diverse ideas and personalities while widening their worldviews via a 50-minute presentation. Dixie Forum will be on recess Feb. 5 but will return at noon on Feb. 12 in the Dunford Auditorium. John McClennan, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Utah, will present on the Utah Geothermal Experiment.