Dorothea Lange 1895-1965 Photograph by the Library of Congress

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Dorothea Lange 1895-1965 Photograph by the Library of Congress by Mind Map: Dorothea Lange 1895-1965 Photograph by the Library of Congress

1. Connections

1.1. Dorothea Lange greatly influenced the movement in which she was a part of through her emotion capturing photographs. She traveled all across the country to capture images of the utter anguish that the Great Depression produced. After the war she even traveled to many other parts of the world such as Asia and Egypt to capture expressions of people she thought to be universal.

1.2. Her picture "Migrant Mother" continues to influence the world today and was actually chosen in the 1960's to be in the top 50 of the best photographs of the beginning of the 20'th century. She also produced many images for the Life magazine after the war. Her migrant photos were extremely influential in the world, and was even said to "Dorothea Lange greatly influenced the movement in which she was a part of through her emotion capturing photographs. She traveled all across the country to capture images of the utter anguish that the Great Depression produced. Her picture "Migrant Mother" continues to influence the world today and was actually chosen in the 1960's to be in the top 50 of the best photographs of the beginning of the 20'th century. She also produced many images for the Life magazine after the war. Her migrant photos were extremely influential in the world, and and was even said to "have done more for these tragic nomads than all the politicians of the country" (qt in Notable American Women). Lange expressed the human condition at the time with her photographs. The Great Depression and the Wars that followed were tremendous life altering events that led to so many new ways of thinking and feelings. Karin Orhin said that Lange "...left behind...a vision of photography as uniquely capable of exploring and revealing the human condition"(Notable American Women).

2. Life:In many ways Dorothea Lange’s life parallel the tumultuous time period of the great depression in post-war America. At the young age of seven, Dorothea contracted Polio, which left her disabled with and crabbed and deformed right foot. Still, she grew into a strong and independent woman who was not afraid to test the feminine boundaries of her time even if it meant jeopardizing her marriage and family bond.

2.1. Youth

2.1.1. Born on May 26, 1895, Dorothea Nutzhorn survived Polio which she claimed was “the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me” (Gordon, 2006), only to suffer through her parents divorce a few years later. This difficult time was believed by Dorothea to be the fault of her father who deserter her and her mother without explanation and prompted Dorothea’s surname change to Lange, her mother’s maiden name. As a student Dorothea became increasing interested in portrait photography and went on to study basic photography at Columbia University. Although she never turned in a single assignment in her class, her teacher continued to act as a mentor. After schooling Dorothea began working in a Manhattan portrait studio and was encouraged to start her own business; instantly she became well known in the San Francisco art community. It seemed that her life was well organized and contented but as the depression began changing her city, Dorothea became restless in her roll as an upper-class businesswoman, wife, and mother. So, she took her camera to the street and upturned her career.

2.2. Professional

2.2.1. Dorothea began photographing individuals and families in bread lines and labor demonstrations. This work lead to her employment as a stenographer with the Sate of California, where she meet Paul Taylor, her team leader, who would later become her second husband. Together they photographed the lives of dustbowl victims in California’s Imperial Valley, wrote books, and documented one of the most unsettled times in American history. Dorothea perfected the art of relating to her subjects as well as telling their entire story in a single picture by simply talking with and listening to them. During this time Dorothea traveled often many time for months at a time. This meant that both her and her husband would leave their children in what is now essentially foster care. To this day her children resent her for leaving them and their relationships have never truly healed. In 1942, Dorothea was assigned by the Office of War Information (OWI) to document the relocation of several Japanese families to the internment camps set up by President Roosevelt. Once at the camps she was given a military ‘bodyguard’ who limited her coming and goings as well as the people and places photographed. After the photographs were developed the Government impounded her work for thirty years. In her final years Dorothea co-founded Aperture, a high-end, small publishing house that focuses on photography books, took assignments from Life Magazine, and traveled internationally with her husband. In October of 1965 Lange passed away from esophageal cancer.

3. Historical Context: To understand the how deeply affected Americans were by the Great Depression it is important to know what had occurred in the United States in the years preceding. Our country had gone through a horrible war “World War I” and come out of it by following up with great prosperity and an economic boom known as the “Roaring Twenties.” According to “The average American was busy buying automobiles and household appliances, and speculating in the stock market, where big money could be made.” Most of the purchasing done during this time was done on credit and many businesses were doing better than ever expected however they were not passing this gain in profits along to employees at a rate that would have made a difference in the economy. The rate of increasing personal debt and lack of an increase in funds stressed the American economic system, and on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, our stock market crashed; for the next 10 plus years the country struggled to recover. The stock market crash of 1929 thrust our country into turmoil and began what is known as the Great Depression. This was followed by a severe drought felt across the prairie states. According to an article at the “Severe drought in the 1930’s ravaged millions of acres of farmland and brought on the Dust Bowl, prompting hundreds of thousands to flee the damaged prairie states for California, where they hoped for a better life.” President Hoover was of the opinion at the time of the stock market crash that the federal government should not intervene to help the economic situation or provide relief to the families most hurt by the crash. His seemingly uncaring attitude did not sit well with society and as the depression progressed and worsened instead of improving many people were forced to live in conditions that society today may not be able to completely understand. As stated in the article titled The Great Depression found at “Hoover was widely ridiculed: an empty pocket turned inside out was called a “Hoover flag;” the decrepit shantytowns springing up around the country were called “Hoovervilles.” While this president did not cause the Great Depression, he was definitely held accountable for his actions that followed and the lack of government help to the suffering Americans. It was not until Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected as our President in 1932 that a greater government effort was made to help the struggling country. Part of this effort was to begin the Farm Security Administration. The FSA was responsible for hiring photographers like Dorothea Lange who traveled to the shanty towns and drought ravaged regions to capture the true desperation of the Depression. Imagine if you can, being prosperous and providing for you family one day and struggling to even put food in the mouths of you children the next. The number of people unable to care for their families was enormous as was the psychological toll that was being put upon society. As stated in the article The Great Depression, “The unemployment brought on by the Depression caused self-blame and self-doubt. Men were harder hit psychologically than women were. Since men were expected to provide for their families, it was humiliating to have to ask for assistance.” The situation forced women and children to find jobs to help provide for their families. The typical family situation of the earlier generations would be changed forever. Those who lived through the Great Depression would become deeply concerned with saving, and limiting waste. The depression also changed the way government would be involved with giving assistance to needy citizens. No longer would government assistance be something to consider it would now become expected by the American citizens. The Great Depression changed forever the way the economy would run, how individuals would spend or save money and what assistance would be expected from the government. In the very interesting book titled Dancing in the Dark: a Cultural History of the Great Depression the author Morris Dickstein says that “The mood of the Depression was defined not only by hard times and a coming world crisis but by many extraordinary attempts to cheer people up-or else to sober them up into facing what was happening.” (Dickstein) Morris describes this as a “split personality of Depression culture.” (Dickstein) The people of the time were trying to find a way to grasp the reality of the situation and at the same time wanting very much to escape that same reality. Both of these needs were being met by the efforts of the artists of the time. Dorothea Lange and her fellow photographers brought to the entire nation the truth about the suffering in the shanty towns through their photography and the thousands of pictures that were taken for the FSA. The need to escape from their reality would be found in art and entertainment such as radio, movies, animated cartoons, and music, as well as many others. This way of dealing with reality and escaping reality still occurs today. As society is flooded with disasters in the news through the use of photography and film we learn our reality every day, and we still have the arts to allow an escape even for a little while into a fantasy.

4. Great Works

4.1. Migrant Mother (retouched version) Taken in 1936 Location: FSA/OWI-J339168 housed at and available online at the Library of Congress. Caption: "Destitue peapickers in California; a 32 year old mother of seven children."

4.2. Texas tenant farmer in Maysville, California, migrant camp during the peach season. 1927 made seven thousand dollars in cotton. 1928 broke even. 1929 went in the hole. 1930 still deeper. 1931 lost everything. 1932 hit the road. 1935, fruit tramp in California. Date created: 1935 Sept. Original is housed at the Library of Congress and is available online.

4.3. Mother and two children on the road Tulelake, Sisklyou County, California. General caption number 65. Created 1939 Sept. The original is housed at the Library of Congress and can be accessed online.

5. Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" According to the Library of Congress the picture we have all become so familiar with in our studies is of Florence Owens Thompson and her children and was taken in 1936. This final image that depicts the desperation of this mother is one in a series of pictures that Lange took of this mother and her children. In a quote from Lange taken from she describes the moment while taking the picture and her brief conversation with the mother "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." Lange informed her editor of the conditions people were living in at this camp who in turn not only let the authorities know of the conditions but also published the pictures. The efforts of Lange and her editor did not go unnoticed and federal aid was quickly sent into this camp to help the struggling citizens.

6. Evaluation

6.1. Lisa Wolfe

6.2. Jennifer Amann

6.3. Kelly Bohannon

7. Resources

7.1. mindmeister video tutorial

7.2. Resources about the Life and History of Dorothea Lange

7.2.1. Video: An American Odyssey:

7.2.2. Biography:

7.2.3. Radio Interview from NPR: Drawing Beauty out of Desolation:

7.2.4. Oral History Interview with Dorothea Lang:

7.2.5. PBS

7.3. Resources about the photography of Dorothea Lange

7.3.1. Dorothea Lang: The Photographer as Agricultural Sociologist:

7.3.2. MOMA collection of Lang’s photography:

7.3.3. Library of Congress:

7.3.4. Classic Photographers