Dorothea Lange

Cameras and photography are everywhere today.  We’re literally awash in photographic images about our daily lives.  We rarely give much thought to this phenomenon.

It wasn’t always this way.  Photographing our lives used to be much more rare and artful when photography was still young and relied upon emulsion based images rather than digital technology.  Taking photos depended on more laborious and cumbersome means.  Whether by glass plates or film.  Not every person or family owned a camera.

With this background in mind, consider the early 20th century attitudes about working women.  Also consider one who carried the result of a childhood bout of polio.  Think of an amazing person named Dorothea Lange.  She was born May 26th, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey as Dorothea Nutzhorn.  After her father abandoned the family, her mother and Dorothy adopted the mother’s maiden name, Lange.

Lange earned her degree in photography at Columbia University.  She moved to San Francisco in 1918 and opened a well-regarded portrait studio. 

With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange became interested in unemployed and homeless people on the streets.  This involvement led to work with the Farm Security Administration. It is this job that Lange garnered her acclaim and worldwide fame.


Her photographs illustrated the fate of poor and neglected people of the hard times.  There were photos of migrant workers, sharecroppers, displaced farm families and other hard hit people.  Her most famous photograph is called “Migrant Mother” (Florence Thompson).

Some of her other noteworthy work revealed the plight of relocated Japanese Americans during World War II under contract from the Federal War Relocation Administration.  The images were so emotionally moving that the U.S. Army impounded them and were not shown until well after the war.

After several years of ill health, including post-polio syndrome and espophageal cancer, Lange died October 11, 1965 at the age of 70.

Lange received many honors and has been featured in several prestigious exhibits.  She has been included in the California Hall of Fame.


The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers this American icon on the date of her birth.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
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