Dorothea Lange was born on May 26th, 1895 in New Jersey but she later moved to New York to study art at Columbia University. Lange is noted for having run a very successful portrait studio in San Francisco. She is known for her photos taken during the depression. Lange always tried to portray the real life emotions felt by people during various historical events. Dorothea is recognized as being very influential in the making of documentary photography. Her most well known photo is one of a migrant mother entitled “Migrant Mother.” Lange was also made famous by her photographs of Japanese internment camps taken in the 1940’s. In 1940 she became the first woman awarded a Guggenheim fellowship for her photography.
Migrant Mother (1936) taken in Nipomo, California. Migrant Mother is a picture of an emaciated thirty two year old woman named Florence Owens Thompson and her children. Dorothea captured this photo while on a one-month trip during which she took photos of farm laborers. This photo was one in a series of five exposures. In February of 1960 Popular Photography interviewed Dorothea Lange. In this interview Lange talks extensively about her subjects life. At one point in the interview Dorothea says to the interviewer “She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food.” Once the piece Migrant Mother was widely circulated, people became aware of the ongoing social problem that Dorothea Lange was addressing.
Through her art, Lange has single handedly helped every artist today is some way, shape, or form. Dorothea was not only an artist, but a reporter; she made the hard things in life easier to look at by capturing them in an artistic way and thus bringing attention to problems that people were turning a blind eye to. Lange paved the way for photography and photojournalism; the world is a better place for having had her in it.
Migrant Mother (1936) Nipomo, California
Tractored Out (1938) Childress County, Texas