Two Illinois Photographers: Frank Sadorus and
Nathan Lerner
The museum staff chose these two particular
photographers because of the contrast between them in
their locations (rural eastern Illinois and Chicago,
Illinois) and consequently their subject matter, and at
the same time for their similarity in the way they
composed photographs and handled such elements as
light, value, and composition. This module is
structured so that other photographers could be added
or substituted.
The Collection and Exhibit
The Illinois State Museum is the home for the entire collection of Frank Sadorus photographic glass
negative plates. There is a book on Frank Sadorus (Upon a Quiet Landscape by Raymond Bial) that
contains 65 plates and biographical information about the Sadorus family.
The copyright and possession of the Nathan Lerner images rests with his widow, Kiyoko Lerner, who
has graciously offered to share them in this Web module. The Museum's exhibit Nathan Lerner: 50
Years of Photographic Inquiry will open at the Museum's Lockport Gallery on March 18, 2000.
Another Lerner exhibit will arrive at the Chicago Art Gallery and the Museum in Springfield in
2001. The print resources section of this module has references for books about Lerner.
The text in this module was kept to a minimum so that each viewer can look at each image closely,
perhaps think about the question asked, and begin to interpret it. This is important in our
presentation of a discipline-based art education format. The images can also be read for historical
and geographical content related to the Great Depression and the Heartland of America. A social
survival skill and career skill for future citizens is the ability to read images and symbols in an age of
pervasive media.
Interdisciplinary Use
History is the strongest subject to which these art images connect. The Sadorus photographs picture
the end of a way of life on the prairie at the turn of the twentieth century. The Lerner photographs
make tangible some of the events and emotions connected with the Great Depression of the 1930s
and early 1940s and the influence of Modernism on art. Teachers who are teaching their students
these American History topics can lead discussions about the subjects and environments depicted in
the photographs and discuss how people who took photos were recording history.
Writing in a journalistic style suits itself to the photographs which hint at headlines in a changing
world Roosevelt's death, the homeless, migration from farms to towns by some numbers of rural
people are a few. Students could write or give a mock-interview of one of the five people depicted
in the various photographs a homeless man, a young lady, a farm girl, a farmer who is an art
photographer, and his brother.