Dalia Habib Linssen

Dalia Habib Linssen is Lecturer at Rhode Island School of Design where she teaches courses in the histories and theories of photography, American art, visual culture, and collegiate teaching. She is currently working on a book project that examines the cultural dynamics between social protest movements, contemporary photographic practices, and social activism; Protest, Photography, Art will be published by Bloomsbury Press in 2018. 

“Imprints of Their Being”: the Photographs of Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel


Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel helped shape American photography by directing their cameras onto an America they experienced as both active participants and perceptive observers. Though recognized almost exclusively for their involvement with Life and Fortune magazines, Mieth and Hagel cultivated extensive, discrete photographic careers. Through four decades, across numerous cities, and under various patrons, Mieth and Hagel created thousands of deeply engrossing photographs during many of the seismic social transformations marking the 20th century in the United States. As the first scholarly study to explore the contributions of this pair, the dissertation argues that Mieth (the second female photojournalist hired by Life magazine) and Hagel helped shift an entrenched paradigm of 1930s American documentary photography from a focus on government-sponsored projects such as the Farm Security Administration to a model activated by their positions as immigrant workers in the United States. Additional support for the project was provided by the American Council of Learned Societies and the Henry Luce Foundation. Research for the dissertation was completed at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson and at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa. 

In February 2009, I presented research on my dissertation at the College Art Association’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles in a talk entitled, “A Position Neither Here Nor There: Hansel Mieth’s and Otto Hagel’s California Photographs, 1928-1936.” In April 2009, I gave a talk at the Symposium on the History of Art at The Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and the Frick Collection entitled, ““From Redemption to Rehabilitation: Hansel Mieth, Life Magazine, and the Transformation of Twentieth Century Maternity Homes.” 

Based on research developed from the dissertation, I published an article, “A ‘Wide and Varied Canvas: the Photographs of Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel,” in Exposure Magazine, Spring 2012. In 2015, I co-curated an exhibition of Mieth’s and Hagel’s work at the Sonoma County Museum. “LIFE, Labor and Purpose: The Photography of Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel” opened in June 2015 and included an accompanying exhibition catalog. To mark the exhibition opening, I gave a curator’s talk.