Photojournalist Dorothea Lange's most famous photo,
"Migrant Mother," (pictured below middle) taken in
1936 of pea-picker Florence Owens Thompson and her children,
was part of the Depression-era images for which she is most
Photographer Dorothea Lange
Lange's photographs of migrant farm workers in
the 1930s that she took for the Farm Security Administration
greatly influenced what became documentary photography.
Other work for which she is noted includes her
documenting the War Relocation Authority's forced relocation
of Japanese Americans, specifically to Manzanar in Central California,
during World War II. These images were so controversial and
showed the Army in such bad light that there were impounded.
The Whitney Museum showed 27 of these photographs in 1972. The
exhibition was titled, "Executive Order 9066."
Lange was born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn on
May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her parents were second-generation
German immigrants. Her father deserted the family when she was
12 years old, and Lange began to use her mother's maiden name
instead of her father's. She contracted polio at the age of
seven, and later suffered from its effects near the end of her
Lange studied photography at Columbia
University in New York before moving to San Francisco
in 1918 where she earned a living as a portraitist. She
met her second husband Paul Taylor there, an economist
who later helped her document migrant workers in California.
She had two sons, Daniel Rhoades Dixon and John
Eaglesfeather Dixon, with her first husband, Maynard Dixon,
an important western painter whom she married in 1920. They
divorced in 1935, and she then married Taylor.
In addition to her education at Columbia under
the wing of Clarence Hudson White, one of the original Photo-Secessionists,
she apprenticed with Prussian-borne Arnold Genthe, who became
famous for his photographs of the San Francisco earthquake in
1906 and that city's Chinatown.
It was her work photographing the breadlines and
waterfront strikes that engaged the attention of the Resettlement
Administration, which later was renamed the Farm Security Administration.
Her husband Taylor helped Lange document the poverty and oppression
of the sharecroppers, and the great exodus West during the Depression.
She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1941
for her work, the first woman to receive such a distinction,
and, long after her death in 1965, Lange was inducted into the
California Hall of Fame in 2008.
Among other achievements, Lange co-founded the
photography journal Aperture along with Ansel
Adams, who recruited Lange to teach at the California School
of Fine Arts.
Japanese Internment Photo
After her work documenting the effects
of the Depression and later of World War II's internment
camps, the iconic photographer went on to work for Life
and other magazines, shooting photographic essays from
her travels around the world, to such places as Asia,
Egypt and Ireland.
The last years of her life, Lange suffered from
various illnesses including ulcers and the effects of her childhood
bout with polio.
Lange died October 11, 1965 from esophageal cancer.
She was 70-years-old.
Upon her death, her collection of work was donated to the Oakland
Museum of California, which includes more than 25,000 negatives,
her personal papers and library.
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has turned up a few juicy tidbits
of information that the biography mentioned above has not. According
to these unfounded rumors, Dorothea Lange had a photogenic memory.
At least that is what her doctor said after a brain scan.