Dorothea Lange was born on May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey and learned photography at Columbia University in New York. She is best known for her chronicles of the Great Depression and for her photographs of migratory farm workers and has been called America’s greatest documentary photographer. She passed away on October 11, 1965.
Dorothea Lange by Rondal Partrige
An elder Dorothea Lange with her camera
I find her photography profoundly touching and very realistic. I obviously haven’t lived those times, but that’s what I get from her shots, a deep sense of truth. And I think that’s wonderful – to express that in your art.
One of her most famous portrait, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, is of a Native American migrant worker—a 32 year old mother of seven named Florence Ownes Thompson, who apparently had just sold their tent to buy food.
The color version
Lange worked for the Farm Security Administration documenting the plight of the unemployed, homeless and migrant laborers, taking hundreds of photos. I find most of them intriguing and worth looking at and I’ll post a few of them here.
July 1939. “Mr. Whitfield, tobacco sharecropper, with baby on front porch. North Carolina, Person County, near Gordonton.”
Oregon, August 1939. “Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest.”
“Note Social Security number tattooed on his arm.”
October 1935. Marysville, California. “Agricultural worker in migrant camp figuring his year’s earnings,” i.e. a rubber check.
July 1939. Gordonton, N.C. “Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note kerosene pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. Rough, unfinished timber posts have been used as supports for porch roof. Negro men sitting on the porch. Brother of store owner stands in doorway.”
June 1936. “Center Market – Washington, D.C.”
October 1939. “Dazey farm. Seventeen year old boy going to feed the pigs. Homedale district, Malheur County, Oregon.”
November 1936. “Daughter of migrant Tennessee coal miner. Living in American River camp near Sacramento, California.”
“Sharecropper family near Hazlehurst, Georgia.”
California, March 1937. “Toward Los Angeles.”
Have a great week!