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Dorothea Lange Biography

Biography | 8-14 yrs | Interactive

Who is Dorothea Lange?

Photographer Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965) was born just across the river from New York City in Hoboken, New Jersey. She was an influential photojournalist and even though her work was used primarily for news purposes her photographs have an artistic quality that has made her work a collectors item for museums and art collectors alike.

Lange trained as a photographer at Columbia University in New York City and went on to apprentice with a few noted photographers before moving across the country to live in Berkeley, California, where she lived for the rest of her life. Dorothea Lange opened a portrait studio but as the great depression began in 1929, she focused her lens on the unemployed and homeless people of the Bay Area.

Dorothea’s Childhood

She contracted Polio at the age of 7, leaving her with a lifelong weakness in her right leg. However, she grew to appreciate the effect the disease had on her life, believing that it made her stronger and guided her to become the person she had. She went on to study photography and apprentice with several leading photographers such as Arnold Genthe and Clarence Hudson.

Her Work

Along with her second husband, economist Paul Schuster Taylor, Lange documented the condition of sharecroppers and migrant workers in the northern California region. Her most famous photograph titled Migrant Mother captures the emotion and strife of workers during the great depression.

Years later, when Japanese immigrants began to be interred in detention camps after Japan‘s raid on Pearl Harbour, Dorothea Lange gave up her Guggenheim fellowship and began to capture the effects of the attack on the Japanese population of the United States. Her photographs were highly political and the US government confiscated much of this collection which is now available for viewing purposes at the Bancroft Library in the University of Berkely, California.

Dorothea Lange was a photographer with a mission and a purpose. Her photographs were windows into the lives of people who had no other means of telling the world about their troubles. Even though the primary purpose of her taking these for photographs weren’t for the sake of art, her work is lyrical and sings the songs of the people she documented.