Lange, Dorothea (1895–1965) By Kuykendall, Lara
Dorothea Lange is best known as a documentary photographer for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration) during the 1930s. Her photographs are often characterized by an empathetic focus on individuals as representatives of larger social conditions. During the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, her work increased awareness of economic and environmental disasters in order to garner public and governmental support for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal relief agencies. Lange’s most famous photograph, Migrant Mother (1936), depicts a woman and three of her children at a pea picker’s camp in Nipomo, California. Although the family is clearly destitute, dirty, and hungry, the mother’s gaze makes her appear resolute and hopeful, as if she is envisioning her own survival. Lange also documented the Japanese internment camps of the Second World War, created photo essays for Life magazine, and was the first woman photographer to win a Guggenheim Fellowship. She died of oesophageal cancer in 1965.