The Answer to Name that Photographer is…

DOROTHEA LANGE

She has been called America’s greatest documentary photographer.

Photo of Dorothea Lange in 1938 with 4x5 camera

Photo of Dorothea Lange

This photo of Dorothea Lange was taken by Rondal Partridge, son of Imogen Cunningham.¬†She is holding a Graflex 4×5 single lens reflex camera, which takes sheet film.

After being educated in photography at Columbia University in New York City, Lange moved to San Francisco and opened a successful portrait studio.

She married, had two sons, then once the Great Depression hit, she turned her lens from the studio to the streets. Her images of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of many and led her to work for the Farm Security Administration.

In 1935 she divorced her first husband and married her second, Paul Taylor, a professor of Economics at UC Berkeley. Both were passionate about social and political issues and worked together documenting rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant workers.

Dorothea Lange's photo of a Migrant motherLange’s best known photograph titled, “Migrant Mother, 1936″ captures this thirty-two year old mother whom she described as “desperate and hungry.” She recounted her conversation in a 1960 magazine article: “…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. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”

In 1941 Lange won a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography, but when Pearl Harbor was attacked she gave up this prestigious award to photograph the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps like Manzanar. Her powerful photographs were so clearly critical of the government’s policy that the Army impounded them.

Dorothea Lange's photo of Japanese Internment

Dorothea Lange photo of a Japanese internment camp

Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of the Japanese American Internment– a book with about 100 never before published photos from her 800 picture archive, is available on Amazon, as are many other classics with her images.

Dorothea Lange Impounded Book CoverDorothea Lange_Heart Mind Book CoverDorothea Lange A Visual Life Book Cover

Check out some of Dorothea Lange’s work if you can, and see the raw emotion she captures in the human condition. There’s a reason she has been described as American’s best documentary photographer.

10 thoughts on “The Answer to Name that Photographer is…

  1. I’ve enjoyed noodling through your website because your fellow blogger Tina Feriss Barbour recommended you as a wise blogger. I have to agree. I picked this post to respond to because one of my grad school profs, Bill Stott,wrote about Lange and other photographers in his book Documentary Expression and Thirties America. Even though the book was written in the ’70′s, I think you might enjoy it. All best,Shirley

    • Hi Shirley,

      Welcome to my blog. That’s so nice of Tina to recommend my blog to you. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment and let me know you stopped by. And thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll be sure to check it out.

  2. Hats off to this wonderful lady! It’s take lots of courage and dedication to achieve what she did in her lifetime. Thanks a lot Becky for sharing the story of such a inspiring personality.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Dorothea Lange, Arindam. She made a huge impact on the world of photography, and the world at large, with her powerful photographs.

  3. The first time I saw the photo of the “Migrant Mother” I must have been around twelve years old, and quite impressionable at the time. I remember it affecting me so deeply–I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind for days. What a legacy Lange has left for us with her honest photographs of human misery and strength.

    • The power of Dorothea Lange’s image, “Migrant Mother,” as well as many others of hers, is that they speak volumes in one fleeting moment. You immediately feel the raw emotion…or as you worded it so well…”her honest photographs of human misery and strength.” We are all lucky that she felt compelled to photograph the human condition.

    • The more I learn about Dorothea Lange, the more I marvel at all she did–especially when you consider the male-dominated world of photography she was living in and excelling.

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