Dorothea Lange

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Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange atop automobile in California.jpg
Lange in 1936
Born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn
(1895-05-26)May 26, 1895
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
Died October 11, 1965(1965-10-11) (aged 70)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Known for Documentary photography, photojournalism
Spouse(s)

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born of second generation German immigrants on May 26, 1895, at 1041 Bloomfield Street, Hoboken, New Jersey[2][3] to Heinrich Nutzhorn and Johanna Lange.[4] Dorothea Lange was named Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn at birth, she had a younger brother, Martin.[4] She dropped her middle name and assumed her mother's maiden name after her father abandoned the family when she was 12 years old, one of two traumatic incidents early in her life, the other was her contraction of polio at age seven which left her with a weakened right leg and a permanent limp.[2][3] "It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me," Lange once said of her altered gait. "I've never gotten over it, and I am aware of the force and power of it."[5]

Career[edit]

Lange graduated from the Wadleigh High School for Girls [6] and was educated in photography at Columbia University 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 left New York with a female friend to travel the world, but was forced to end the trip in San Francisco due to a robbery and settled there, working as a photo finisher.[7] By the following year she had opened a successful portrait studio,[3][8] 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, Daniel, born in 1925, and John, born in 1930.[9]

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, starting with White Angel Breadline (1933) which depicted a lone man facing away from the crowd in front of a soup kitchen run by a widow known as the White Angel,[10] captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

Resettlement Administration[edit]

Lange's iconic 1936 photograph, Migrant Mother
"Broke, baby sick, and car trouble!" (1937)

In December 1935, she and Dixon divorced and she married economist Paul Schuster Taylor, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.[9] For the next five years they documented rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant laborers  – Taylor interviewing and gathering economic data, Lange taking photos.

Working for the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration, they 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.

One of Lange's most recognized works is titled Migrant Mother,[11] the woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson. 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.[12]

After Lange returned home, she told the editor of a San Francisco newspaper about conditions at the camp and provided him with two of her photos, the editor informed federal authorities and published an article that included the photos. As a result, the government rushed aid to the camp to prevent starvation.[13]

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.[14] Twenty-two of the photographs she took as part of the FSA were included in John Steinbeck's The Harvest Gypsies when it was originally published in The San Francisco News in 1936.

Japanese American internment[edit]

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
Grandfather and grandson at Manzanar Relocation Center

In 1941, Lange was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for achievement in photography,[15] after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she gave up the prestigious award to record the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA).[16] She covered the internment of Japanese Americans[17] and their subsequent incarceration, traveling throughout urban and rural California to photograph families preparing to leave, visiting several temporary assembly centers as they opened, and eventually highlighting Manzanar, the first of the permanent internment camps. Much of her work focused on the waiting and uncertainty involved in the removal: piles of luggage waiting to be sorted, families wearing identification tags and waiting for transport.[18] To many observers, her photograph[19] of Japanese American children pledging allegiance to the flag shortly before they were sent to camp is a haunting reminder of this policy of detaining people without charging them with any crime.[20]

Her images were so obviously critical that the Army impounded most of them, and they were not seen publicly during the war.[21][22] 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.

California School of Fine Arts/San Francisco Art Institute[edit]

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), now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. Imogen Cunningham and Minor White joined as well.[23]

In 1952, she 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.[24] Another series for Life magazine which she began in 1954 featured Martin Pulich, a lawyer, due to her interest in how poor people were defended in the court system which by one account grew out of her experience with her brother’s arrest and trial.[25]

Death and legacy[edit]

In the last two decades of her life, Lange's health was poor,[4] she suffered from gastric problems as well as post-polio syndrome – although this renewal of the pain and weakness of polio was not yet recognized by most physicians.[citation needed]

Lange died of esophageal cancer on October 11, 1965, in San Francisco, California, at age 70,[9][26] she was survived by her second husband, Paul Taylor, two children, three stepchildren,[27] and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Three months later, the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a retrospective show of her work, which Lange herself had helped to curate.[28]

In 2003 Lange was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame;[29] in 2006 an elementary school was named in her honor in Nipomo, California, near the site where she photographed Migrant Mother.[30] In 2008 she was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. Her son Daniel Dixon accepted the honor in her place.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hudson, Berkley (2009). Sterling, Christopher H., ed. Encyclopedia of Journalism. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE. pp. 1060–67. ISBN 978-0-7619-2957-4. 
  2. ^ a b Lurie, Maxine N. and Mappen, Marc. Encyclopedia of New Jersey. 2004, page 455
  3. ^ a b c Vaughn, Stephen L. Encyclopedia of American Journalism. 2008, page 254
  4. ^ a b c "Dorothea Lange – Photographer (1895 – 1965)". A&E Television Network. November 16, 2016. Archived from the original on August 25, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Corrina Wu, "American Eyewitness", ''CR Magazine'', Spring/Summer 2010". Crmagazine.org. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  6. ^ Acker, Kerry Dorothea Lange, Infobase Publishing, 2004
  7. ^ Durden, Mark. Dorothea Lange (55). London N1 9PA: Phaidon Press Limited. p. 126. ISBN 0-7148-4053-X. 
  8. ^ "Dorothea Lange". NARA. 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. 
  9. ^ a b c Oliver, Susan (2003-12-07). "Dorothea Lange: Photographer of the People". 
  10. ^ Durden, p. 3.
  11. ^ "Two women and a photograph". The Hindu. 
  12. ^ (Popular Photography, Feb. 1960)
  13. ^ "Dorothea Lange ~ Watch Full Film: Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning". American Masters. PBS. August 30, 2014. Retrieved September 10, 2015. 
  14. ^ Dunne, Geoffrey (2002). "Photographic license". New Times. Archived from the original on 2002-06-02. 
  15. ^ "Dorothea Lange". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  16. ^ "Hayward, California, Two Children of the Mochida Family who, with Their Parents, Are Awaiting Evacuation". World Digital Library. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Civil Control Station, Registration for evacuation and processing. San Francisco, April 1942. War Relocation Authority, Photo By Dorothea Lange, From the National Archive and Records Administration taken for the War Relocation Authority courtesy of the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley, California. Published in Image and Imagination, Encounters with the Photography of Dorothea Lange, Edited by Ben Clarke, Freedom Voices, San Francisco, 1997.
  18. ^ Alinder, Jasmine. "Dorothea Lange". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  19. ^ Pledge of allegiance at Rafael Weill Elementary School a few weeks prior to evacuation, April, 1942. N.A.R.A.; 14GA-78 From the National Archive and Records Administration taken for the War Relocation Authority courtesy of the Bancroft Library. Published in Image and Imagination, Encounters with the Photography of Dorothea Lange, Edited by Ben Clarke, Freedom Voices, San Francisco, 1997.
  20. ^ Davidov, Judith Fryer. Women's Camera Work. 1998, page 280
  21. ^ Dinitia Smith (November 6, 2006). "Photographs of an Episode That Lives in Infamy". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 2, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  22. ^ Kerri Lawrence (February 16, 2017). "Correcting the Record on Dorothea Lange's Japanese Internment Photos". National Archives News. Archived from the original on July 20, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  23. ^ Robert Mix. "Vernacular Language North. SF Bay Area Timeline. ''Modernism (1930–1960)''". Verlang.com. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  24. ^ BellaVistaRanch.net. Suisun History. Nancy Dingler, Part 3 – Fifty years since the birth of the Monticello Dam. Retrieved on August 17, 2009.
  25. ^ Partridge, Elizabeth (1994). Dorothea Lange–a visual life. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 26. ISBN 1-56098-350-7. 
  26. ^ "Dorothea Lange Is Dead at 70. Chronicled Dust Bowl Woes. Photographer for 50 Years Took Notable Pictures of 'Oakies' Exodus". New York Times. October 14, 1965. Retrieved 2008-06-29. 
  27. ^ Neil Genzlinger (August 28, 2014). "The Story Behind the Photos". New York Times. Archived from the original on September 3, 2017. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  28. ^ "American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning". PBS, thirteen.org. August 29, 2014. Archived from the original on March 28, 2016. Retrieved September 3, 2017. 
  29. ^ "National Women's Hall of Fame: Dorothea Lange". womenofthehall.org. 2003. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 
  30. ^ Mike Hodgson (May 6, 2016). "Lange Elementary's 10th anniversary comes with Gold Ribbon Award". Santa Maria Times. Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 
  31. ^ Timm Herdt (December 21, 2008). "Hall of Fame ceremony lauds state achievers in many fields". Ventura County Star. Archived from the original on September 2, 2017. Retrieved September 2, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dorothea Lange; Paul Schuster Taylor (1999) [1939]. An American Exodus: A record of Human Erosion. Jean Michel Place. ISBN 978-2-85893-513-0. 
  • Milton Meltzer (1978). Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0622-2. 
  • Linda Gordon (2009). Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-05730-0. 
  • Linda Gordon; Gary Y. Okihiro, eds. (2006). Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-33090-7. 
  • Linda Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Gale. ISBN 9780028656861. 
  • Anne Whiston Spirn (2008). Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226769844. 
  • Sam Stourdze, ed. (2005). Dorothea Lange: The Human Face. Paris: NBC Editions. ISBN 9782913986015. 
  • Neil Scott-Petrie (2014). Dorothea Lange Color: Photography. CreateSpace. ISBN 9781495477157. 

External links[edit]

Dorothea Lange, Ex-tenant farmer on relief grant in the Imperial Valley, California, 1937.jpg
External video
Dorothea Lange's Documentary Photographs, at J. Paul Getty Museum