Dorothea Lange (1895–1965)


Dorothea Lange was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. She studied photography at Columbia University and worked at a New York portrait studio until 1918 when she began to travel. Stranded in San Francisco, she continued doing studio work during the 1920’s. With her husband, the painter Maynard Dixon, she traveled the southwest, photographing Native Americans. She believed that the camera could teach people “how to see without a camera.”

The social upheaval brought on by the Great Depression led Lange to take her camera into the streets where she documented the suffering of the dispossessed in breadlines and on labor strikes, in the wrenching drama of endless waiting for things to get better. In 1935 with her second husband, Paul Schuster Taylor, a labor economist, Lange was employed by the California and Federal Resettlement Administration (Later the Farm Security Administration) to record the Dust Bowl exodus when drought and hard times forced thousands of farm families to move west in search of work.

Dorothea Lange’s work reflects insight, compassion and profound empathy for her subjects. Her photographs are reproduced in books and housed in museum collections. The largest such collection is at the Oakland Museum of California. Although she did not consider herself to be an artist, she said of her work: “To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable…But I have only touched it, just touched it.”

Resettled farm child from Taos Junction to Bosque Farms project
New Mexico 1935 |110.14.07
American River camp, Sacramento, California 1936 |212.15.03
Destitute Pea Pickers in California 1935 | 111.14.07
Destitute family. American River camp, Sacramento, California 1936 | 213.15.03