Parlor Figure Name: Dorothea Lange
Birth-Death: May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965)(1)
Residence (city, state, or region): Born: Hoboken, New Jersey, Died: San Francisco, California (1)
Occupation: Documentary photographer and photojournalist (1)
What’s this person best known for?
Lange is best know for her work during the Depression for the Farm Security Administration where she photographed the effects of the Depression. In many ways Lange humanized for the American public the Depression and it's drastic effects. (2)
Race/Ethnicity/Religion (if important): White/German descent (1)
Politics: Lange was and still is thought of as a photographer for democracy. "Most of Lange's photography was optimistic, even Utopian, not despite but precisely through its frequent depictions of sadness and deprivation. By showing her subjects as worthier than their conditions, she called attention to the incompleteness of American democracy. And by showing her subjects as worthier than their conditions, she simultaneously asserted that greater democracy was possible. (2)
Beliefs about relation between art and politics (if applicable): She wanted to use her art (photographs) to portray the real America and allow others to see the effects of what was happening in the world. "Her message-that beauty, intelligence, and moral strength are found among people of all circumstances-has profound political implications, of course. Her greatest commitment, though, was to what she called the "visual life." (2).
Major Activities in the 1930s: Documented through photographs the effects of the Great Depression. (1)
Major Works (include dates and place of publication where applicable):
Migrant Mother, 1936. (3)
Migrant workers, 1935. (3)
Japanese Americans Children Pledging Allegiance, 1942. (3)
Places where figure’s work often appears (magazines, radio, nightclubs, galleries): Lange's photos are still available in the National Archives, the website, Still Photographs Division and Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkley (4).
Organizations s/he belongs to, causes s/he supports: Co-founded the photographic magazine Aperture. (4).
Best sound bites by or about this figure, including source (if this person is a writer, you must include a quote by him or her):
"One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you'd be stricken blind. To live a visual life is an enormous undertaking, practically unattainable. I've only touched it, just touched it."(5)
"Artists are controlled by the life that beats in them, like the ocean beats on the shore."(5)
"I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were--their pride, their strength, their spirit."(5)
"A photographer's files are, in a sense, his autobiography. More resides there than he is aware of. ...As fragmentary and incomplete as the archaeologist's pot sherds, it can be no less telling."(5)
Was this person a popular or critical success?
She was (and still is) extremely popular. Her images both touched and horrified the American public with the raw and absolutely real portrayal that each photograph possessed. (2)
Fun Facts to Know and Tell:
Lange was born, Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhornat. However, she dropped her middle name and took her mother's maiden name after her father abandoned the family when she was twelve. (4)
Titles of the 1-3 “texts” (writing, photos, songs, etc.) by this person you’ll discuss in your paper (include date and place of publication, if applicable):
1. "Migrant Mother" (3).
2. "Japanese Americans Children Pledging Allegiance" (3).
Major influences on this person’s work (what’s on the bookshelf):Much of Lange's work though unintentional was published alongside Steinbeck's articles as it fit so well with his topics.
What primary research have you done?