Dorothea Lange: Migrant Mother, c. 1936

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”  – Dorothea Lange

Her photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were – their pride, their strength, their spirit.” – Dorothea Lange

Wherever there was social upheaval, or quiet suffering, Lange was there with a compassionate eye to record and report. 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 captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration  (FSA). From 1935 to 1939, Lange’s work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten — particularly sharecroppers, displaced farm families, and migrant workers — to public attention.

The image of a worn, weather-beaten woman, a look of desperation on her face, two children leaning on her shoulders, an infant in her lap; has become a photographic icon of the Great Depression in America. Ms. Lange took this photo in March 1936 at a camp for seasonal agricultural workers 175 miles north of Los Angeles.

As Lange  was finishing the photographic assignment and was driving back home in a wind-driven rain when she came upon a sign for the camp. Something beckoned her to postpone her journey home and enter the camp. She was immediately drawn to the woman and took a series of six shots – the only photos she took that day. The woman was the mother of seven children and on the brink of starvation.

Migrant Mother, Photo by Dorothea Lange c. 1936

Migrant Mother does not take in a single detail of the pea pickers’ camp—the bleak landscape and muddy ground, the tattered tents and dilapidated pickup trucks. Still, the photograph evokes the uncertainty and despair resulting from continual poverty. The mother’s furrowed brow and deeply lined face make her look much older than she is (thirty-two).

The morning after Lange visited the camp, she printed the photographs and took them to the San Francisco News. They were published as illustrations to an article recounting the plight of the destitute pea pickers, and the story was repeated in newspapers throughout the nation. The photographs were shocking: it was unconscionable that the workers who put food on American tables could not feed themselves. Spurred to action by pictures that revealed not the economic causes, but the human consequences of poverty, the federal government promptly sent twenty thousand pounds of food to California migrant workers.

May 3, 2011 Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother c. 1936   PowerPoint presentation.

The end of the 2010 – 2011 school year is fast approaching.  We only have two more class sessions.   Final grades will be issued on May 17, the last day of class.  Please make sure you have all of your missed  assignments turned into me by May 10th.  -Mrs. S

“Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you.”  -George Muller

“Now let Your unfailing love comfort me, just as You promised me.”  Psalm 119:76

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