Dorothea Lange was born with the name of Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1895. She was raised by her mother because her father left her family. They moved to the Lower East Side of New York. When she was a young girl she was stricken with polio, which left her with a lifelong limp which she believed helped her to be more sensitive to the sufferings of others.

Lang had never taken a photograph until she was eighteen, when she got a job working in the darkroom of a well known portrait studio on New York’s Fifth Avenue. It was then she decided she wanted to become a photographer. She saved her money and bought a large camera and two lenses and took photos of her family and friends
and developed her prints in the backyard chicken coop that she had converted into a darkroom and took some photography classes too.

When she was twenty-two she decided to go with her friend and travel the world and sell her photographs to finance her expenses but she was robbed in San Francisco of all her money, so she had to take a job in a photo-finishing department of a large store in San Francisco.

Later on, with the help of a friend, she open her own studio. She liked to photograph landscapes but her favorite subject was people. Lange began a series of photographs on children, men and women that were caught up in the difficult times of the Depression.

MIGRANT MOTHER-This photograph has become a symbol of America’s Great Depression, the difficult years following the stock market crash of 1929 when fourteen million people were out of work. The photograph was taken in 1936 in California, when Lange was working for the Farm Securities Administration in a program designed to bring the seriousness of the situation into public view.

Lange saw this woman at a pea pickers’ camp. The thirty-two year old mother was sitting in a run-down tent with her seven children. The pea crop that they would have been hired to pick had frozen and the family was left with no work. The mother couldn’t move on to another migrant camp because she had sold the tires from her car for food and food had ran out, so now they were living on wild birds caught by the children.

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