The photographs of Dorothea Lange made her one of the most famous photographers of all time, particularly the series of pictures of
Florence Thompson which included her most famous work, Migrant Mother.
Although Lange started as an independent portrait photographer in San Francisco, she was shocked by seeing so many homeless people
who were looking for work that she began to make pictures of people in the street in the hope that highlighting the problem
through her work would lead to change.
Lange then joined the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1935 and documented migrant workers
and their families in rural areas of the US.
Poor mother and children during the Great Depression
Her photographs documented the living conditions in the rural areas of America during the Great
Depression. In her work she shows the hopelessness and despair of migrant workers and
their families but also their pride and dignity and ability to endure the most trying
of circumstances. Her most famous photograph is Migrant
Mother showing Florence Thompson with three of her children. Two of the photos
from that same series can be seen below. To read more about Migrant Mother, click the link.
Florence Thompson, age thirty-two, mother of seven children, Nipomo, California
Migrant agricultural worker's family (destitute pea pickers in California)
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Japanese-Americans were relocated into armed camps and
the War Relocation Authority employed Lange to make photographs of Japanese neighbourhoods,
processing centres and the camps themselves as can be seen in the next photograph of the
barrack homes at Manzanar War Relocation Authority Center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry
where a hot windstorm brings dust from the surrounding desert.
Below is one of Lange's photograph of first-graders, some of Japanese ancestry, at the Weill public school
in San Francisco, pledging allegience to the United States flag.
Japanese-American Children Pledging Allegiance, 1942
One of my favourite photographs of Lange's is the next one which shows a large sign which reads "I am an American", placed in the window of a store on December 8,
the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain
West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, was relocated along with other evacuees in a War Relocation Authority
centre for the duration of the war.
Japanese-American Grocer, 1942
Lange was disturbed by the issues her work
raised and captured physical evidence of the indignities she came across in her pictures.A.D. Coleman, the New York Times referred
to Lange's photographs as "documents of such a high order that they convey the feelings of the victims as well as the facts of the
crime". It's not entirely surprising therefore, that many of the photographs of Dorothea Lange were censored by the Federal Government.
Lighthearted kids in Merrill Farm security administration mobile camp for migratory farm labor, Klamath County, Oregon, 1939
Lange seated on a Ford Model V8 (also known as a "Model 68") holding a Graflex 4x5 Series D camera: Photo by Rondale Partridge for the FSA
The Library of Congress is running a permanent online exhibition entitled Women
Come to the Front which includes a section on Lange's work. There is also the chance to
see work by other female journalists, photographers and broadcasters who worked during
World War II including Toni Frissell and Esther Bubley. Cick
the link to go to the exhibition page to see more of the
photographs of Dorothea Lange or click here to read about Lange's
Migrant Mother photograph.