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Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange in 1936
Born May 26, 1895(1895-05-26)
Hoboken, New Jersey
Died October 11, 1965 (aged 70)
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Field Photography

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

Contents

Biography

Born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 26, 1895, she was the daughter of Joan Lange and Henry Nutzhorn.[1][2] Dorothea developed polio in 1902, at age 7. Like many other polio victims before treatment was available, she emerged with a weakened right leg, and a permanent limp.[2] When she was 12 years old, her father abandoned her and her mother, leading her to drop her middle and last names and adopt her mother's maiden name.[1][2]

Lange was educated in photography in New York City, in a class taught by Clarence H. White. She was informally apprenticed to several New York photography studios, including that of the famed Arnold Genthe. In 1918, she moved to San Francisco, and by the following year she had opened a successful portrait studio.[2][3] She lived across the bay in Berkeley for the rest of her life. In 1920, she married the noted western painter Maynard Dixon, with whom she had two sons.[4] One, born in 1925, was named Daniel Rhoades Dixon. The second child, born in 1929, was named John Eaglesfeather Dixon.[citation needed]

With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

In December 1935, she divorced Dixon and married agricultural economist Paul Schuster Taylor, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.[4] Taylor educated Lange in social and political matters, and together they documented rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant laborers for the next five years — Taylor interviewing and gathering economic data, Lange taking photos.

From 1935 to 1939, Lange's work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten — particularly sharecroppers, displaced farm families, and migrant workers — to public attention. Distributed free to newspapers across the country, her poignant images became icons of the era.

Lange's 1936, Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson

Lange's best-known picture is titled "Migrant Mother." The woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson. The original photo featured Florence's thumb and index finger on the tent pole, but the image was later retouched to hide Florence's thumb. Her index finger was left untouched (lower right in photo).

In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience taking the photograph:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. 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.

According to Thompson's son, Lange got some details of this story wrong, but the impact of the picture was based on the image showing the strength and need of migrant workers.[5]

Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans.
A Japanese American unfurled this banner the day after the Pearl Harbor attack; Lange photographed it in March 1942, just prior to the man's internment.

In 1941, Lange was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she gave up the prestigious award to record the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans to relocation camps, on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA). She covered the rounding up of Japanese Americans and their internment in relocation camps, highlighting Manzanar, the first of the permanent internment camps. To many observers, her photograph of Japanese-American children pledging allegiance to the flag shortly before they were sent to internment camps is a haunting reminder of this policy of detaining people without charging them with any crime or affording them any appeal.[6]

Her images were so obviously critical that the Army impounded them. Today her photographs of the internment are available in the National Archives on the website of the Still Photographs Division, and at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1945, Lange was invited by Ansel Adams to accept a position as faculty at the first fine art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). Imogen Cunningham and Minor White joined as well.[7]

In 1952, Lange co-founded the photographic magazine Aperture. Lange and Pirkle Jones were commissioned in the mid-1950s to shoot a photographic documentary for Life magazine of the death of Monticello, California and of the displacement of its residents by the damming of Putah Creek to form Lake Berryessa. The magazine did not run the piece, so Lange devoted one whole issue of Aperture to the work. The photo collection was shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960.[8]

In the last two decades of her life, Lange's health was poor. She suffered from gastric problems, including bleeding ulcers, as well as post-polio syndrome — although this renewal of the pain and weakness of polio was not yet recognized by most physicians.

Death

Lange died of esophageal cancer on October 11, 1965, age 70.[4][9] She was survived by her second husband, Paul Taylor, two children, three stepchildren, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Legacy

In 1972 the Whitney Museum used 27 of Lange's photographs in an exhibit entitled Executive Order 9066. This exhibit highlighted the Japanese Internment during World War II.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that Lange will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony took place on December 15 and her son accepted the honor in her place.

References

  1. ^ a b Lurie, Maxine N. and Mappen, Marc. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. 2004, page 455
  2. ^ a b c d Vaughn, Stephen L. Encyclopedia of American Journalism. 2008, page 254
  3. ^ "Dorothea Lange". NARA. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/picturing_the_century/text/port_lange_text.html. Retrieved 2008-06-29. "Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) announced her intention to become a photographer at age 18. After apprenticing with a photographer in New York City, she moved to San Francisco and in 1919 established her own studio." 
  4. ^ a b c Oliver, Susan (2003-12-07). "Dorothea Lange: Photographer of the People". 
  5. ^ Dunne, Geoffrey (2002). "Photographic license". New Times. http://web.archive.org/web/20020602103656/http://www.newtimes-slo.com/archives/cov_stories_2002/cov_01172002.html#top. 
  6. ^ Davidov, Judith Fryer. Women's Camera Work. 1998, page 280
  7. ^ Vernacular Language North. SF Bay Area Timeline. Modernism (1930-1960)
  8. ^ BellaVistaRanch.net. Suisun History. Nancy Dingler, Part 3 - Fifty years since the birth of the Monticello Dam. Retrieved on August 17, 2009.
  9. ^ "Dorothea Lange Is Dead at 70. Chronicled Dust Bowl Woes. Photographer for 50 Years Took Notable Pictires of 'Oakies' Exodus.". New York Times. October 14, 1965. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F10B12F73554177A93C6A8178BD95F418685F9&scp=4&sq=Dorothea+Lange&st=p. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 

Further reading

  • Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor, "An American Exodus. A record of Human Erosion", facsimile of the original edition, Sam Stourdzé (ed.), Paris: Edition Jean Michel Place, 1999, ISBN 978-2-85893-513-0
  • Anne Whiston Spirn, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field, University of Chicago Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-226-31606-2
  • Sam Stourdze (ed.), "Dorothea Lange, The Human Face", Paris: NBC Editions, 1998
  • Geoffrey Dunn, "Untitled Depression Documentary" 1980
  • Milton Meltzer, Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life New York, 1978, ISBN 978-0-8156-0622-2
  • Linda Gordon, Dorothea Lange, Encyclopedia of the Depression
  • Linda Gordon, Paul Schuster Taylor, American National Biography
  • Gordon, Linda; Okihiro, Gary Y., eds. (2006), Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, ISBN 0393330907 

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dorothea Lange (1895-05-251965-10-11) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist best known for her Depression-era work.

Sourced

  • One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I have only touched it, just touched it.
    • As quoted in Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life by Elizabeth Partridge (1994)

External links

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Dorothea Lange
File:Lange
Dorothea Lange in 1936; photographer:
Born May 25, 1895(1895-05-25)
Hoboken, New Jersey
Died October 11, 1965 (aged 70)
San Francisco, California
Nationality American
Field Photography

Dorothea Lange (May 25 1895October 11 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs made human the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and greatly influenced the development of documentary photography.

Notable works


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