Throughout its history, Sonoma County has been home to the famous and influential, from Luther Burbank to Charles Schulz. But not all of our famous residents are necessarily household names today.
The History Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa will celebrate the work of LIFE magazine photographer Hansel Mieth and her husband, photographer and filmmaker Otto Hagel, with an exhibit titled “LIFE, Labor and Purpose,” opening June 20.
Mieth joined the staff of LIFE Magazine in 1937, only the second woman photographer to do so, and she married Hagel in 1940. Mieth won fame and created controversy with her photographs of migrant workers and striking San Francisco dockworkers.
Both Germans who fled Hitler’s regime, Mieth and Hagel came to the United States and eventually settled at a ranch on Porter Creek Road in Sonoma County in 1941, where they lived between photo assignments. Hagel died in 1973, and Mieth in 1998.
Hagel and Mieth photographed the inside of the Heart Mountain Japanese American internment camp for LIFE in 1943, but the photographs were never published. In the 1950s, the couple was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Over the years, the museum has collected some 130 original photographic prints by Mieth and Hagel, many of them never put on public display before.
“This is the first major showing of the Mieth and Hagel collection which came to the museum starting in 1991, one of the largest bodies of their work anywhere,” said Diane Evans, the museum’s executive director.
“The pair documented scenes of Sonoma County that were often hidden from view, such as the Head Start program in the 1960s, and images of the Pomo people, such as the funeral procession. They captured the lives, land and spirit of the region,” she said.
The exhibit will continue through Aug. 30 at the museum, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Mondays. Admission: $7-$10; children age 12 and younger free. Information: 579-1500, sonomacountymuseum.org.
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.