In 1913, Dorthea decidesto become a photographer.She trains under ArnoldGenthe, most well knownfor his photographs ofChinatown and the 1906San Francisco earthquake.
Clarence H. White, Self portrait Ring Toss, Clarence H. White
During the GreatDepression, Lange began tophotograph the unemployedmen who wandered the streetsof San Francisco; picturessuch as White AngelBreadline (1932)These photographs led to acommission in 1935 from theFederal ResettlementAdministration, establishedby the U.S. AgricultureDepartment.They hoped that Langespowerful images would bringthe conditions of the ruralpoor to the publics attention.
The photograph that has become known as "Migrant Mother" is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California.“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do notremember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked meno questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I didnot ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said thatthey had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that thechildren killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- totent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might helpher, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”
An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. “…and yet, even in the face of such fate I firmly believe that these people retained their pride, resolution and courage.” D. Lange, 1935
(Below) CocaCola baby bottle: Mother & children, Tulelake, Siskiyou County, CA(above) Children in a Democracy.A migratory family living in atrailer in an open field. Nosanitation, no water. They comefrom Amarillo, Texas. 1940 (left) “Ruby” from Tennessee, daughter of migrant worker living in American River camp near Sacramento, Nov1936
If Dorothea Lange was alive today, shewould probably be out in UnitedNations Plaza, talking with andphotographing the homeless. Shy asshe was, Dorothea Lange was alwaysinterested in people: either her richclients who sat for their portraits inher early career, or the migrantworkers from Oklahoma she spenttime with in later years.
There were three rules to which Dorthea always adhered; “Whatever I photograph, I do not molest, tamper with orarrange. Second; a sense of place. Whenever I photograph, I try to picture as part of it’s surroundings, as having roots. Third; A sense of time…I try to show it as having it’s position in the past or the present.”
Between Weedpatch and Lamont, Kern County, California. Children living in a camp By Dorothea Lange, April 20, 1940
Olivehurst, Yuba County, California. One of the new settlers.
Left- Edison, Kern County, California. Potato picker, she is 52-years-old, has 8 children. Born in Tennessee, she lived and wasmarried in Oklahoma, then came to California. Family became migratory agricultural workers and after four years settled in KernCounty. She says, "I have a house and flowers." She and her husband work in the field at 35 cents an hour, 10 hours a day. Thisclass of people is known to the present migratory workers as "locals." Right - Grayson, Stanislaus County, California. He came toCalifornia in 1936 from Albermarle County, Missouri. He is living in a self-built shack in Grayson, a shacktown community...He hasa job working in hay on nearby ranch. His grandfather, who has four sons and two daughters, all of whom now live inCalifornia, says: "They wasnt raised to go chasin. They was raised to stay home."
Dorthea came to the Relocation Administration with a sure sense of social justice and of how photography could reveal inequality.Country store (Dorothea Lange, 1939) Gordonton, North Carolina Sharecropper kids, 1939
Internment without ChargesIn the early „40‟s, yet another governmentagency, the U.S. Army‟s Western Defense Command, hired her to document the uprooting and incarceration of the Japanese Americans.
She could not support the government‟s actions. She was highly critical of what she saw, and her photographs reflected those views. Instead of circulating Lange’s photographs, the government impounded them during the war, later slipping them, without fanfare, into the National Archives.American Oakland 1942: Japanese-American business owner forced to give up his store.
Lange took over 800 photographs of the evacuation and imprisonment of JapaneseAmericans during World War II. Included are pictures of the California camp Manzanar. Because of the war departmentsembarrassment over the debacle, few remain.
Due to the stark photographs of the victims of the Great Depression of the 1930s that were made by Dorothea Lange, she became a major influence on succeeding documentary and journalistic photographers. She has been called one of the greatest documentary photographers of the United States influencing such successors as Lee Freidlander and Garry Winogrand.Lee Freidlander Garry Winogrand “Women are Beautiful”
A quote by the Elizabethan writer Frances Bacon was pinned to her darkroom door; “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, withoutsubstitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.”
After completing two years (1943-1944) with the Office of War Information and receiving a Guggenheim fellowship award , she and her partner and husband Paul Taylor travel through Europe, Asia, Indonesia and Egypt,Dorthea Lange dies in October of 1965 in her hometown, San Francisco, California. Paul Taylor, one of Langes last photographs
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