“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” ~Dorthea Lange
You know her work. Her image chronicled and defined a decade in American History. Yet, the woman behind the camera is largely unknown.
Born in New Jersey, Dorthea survived a childhood battle with polio. It left her foot and lower leg crippled giving her a permanent limp. Originally Dorthea went to college to be a teacher but soon found that the profession was not for her. She went on to study photography at Columbia University after she worked in a photography studio.
In 1918 she left for a grand adventure but after being robbed she found herself in San Francisco. She settled in Berkley opening a portrait studio and marrying the painter Maynard Dixon.
In 1933 her photograph entitled “White Angel Breadline” caught the attention of a number of photographers and the Farm Security Administration.
Starting in 1935 she and her second husband, Paul Schuster Taylor, an economist, traveled the country recording what was happening. Dorthea’s photographs became icons for the era.
Her work chronicling the American experience didn’t end there. in 1941 she recorded the forced evacuation of the Japanese on the west coast to internment camps. Though she captured so many images of the upheaval of people’s lives from piles of luggage to families with their identification cards. Her most famous photo, however, was a group of Japanese schoolchildren pledging allegiance before being sent to a camp. Her photos were so moving that the United States Army impounded many of them.
My Book recommendations for you based on Dorthea Lang:
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. By and large one of my all time favorite books. An honest look at life during the Great Depression.
- Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaimie Ford This bittersweet about a love that is torn apart by war and opportunities for second chances.
- The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli The story of a war photographer who goes to Vietnam to capture the attrocities.