Dorothea Lange is one of the most famous photographers and influential photojournalists of her time, particularly for her work during the Great Depression. She was credited for capturing intense photographs of the misery during the Great Depression and her influences to the growth of documentary photography. Due to the contentious and raw images she depicted in her photographs, many of her works were confiscated at the time, but are now available for viewing at the Berkley University.
Born in 1895, in New Jersey, USA. Dorothea did not have an easy start in life, she contracted Polio, at the age of 7, which severely weakened her right leg. When asked later on about her disability, she replied, “It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me. I’ve never gotten over it, and I am aware of the force and power of it.”
She was educated and apprenticed in New York City, New York where she learned the rudiments of the craft in various photography studios. In 1918, at the age of 23, she moved to San Francisco, and a year after opened her very own photography studio. Married twice, once to Maynard Dixon, from 1920 until 1935, and once to Paul Schuster Taylor, from 1935 until the end of her life.
One of her more popular images and perhaps most well known is ‘Migrant Mother’, 1936, which depicted migrant worker Florence Owens Thompson and her two children leaning on her shoulders with their backs in front of the camera. This image is considered one of the most iconic images of the Great Depression era. It is said that Thompson had just sold their car tires to be able to pay for food. The image highlighted the hardships that women and children underwent during the time.
Lange was employed by the Resettlement Administration, she built a reputation for her photos of unemployed and homeless individuals during the Great Depression, she decided to go to the streets to capture the poverty at her time, and bring forward their plight. However it was her marriage with agricultural economist Paul Schuster Taylor that brought her to become even more aware of the various social developments of their time. Taylor educated Lange on many political and social issues, and they detailed and recorded poverty in farming areas, as well as the exploitation of the migrant workers. With her husband’s focus on research, Lange concentrated on photography. From 1935 to 1939 her moving photographs appeared in newspapers across USA, bringing national attention the misery of rural families and her images became iconic to this time.
After the war, Lange taught at the California School of Fine Arts and founded a photographic publication called Aperture. She passed away in 1965, at the age of 70, due to gastric problems and residual polio effects.
I hope you enjoyed my visit down memory lane, there are so many more wonderful photographs by Dorothea, please do go have a look online.
til next time…..Happy snapping.