Study the Masters: Dorothea Lange

In Study the Masters by David5 Comments


Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was an American photographer best known for her photojournalism in the Great Depression, and notably known for the image above, Migrant Mother. An early documentary photographer, Lange’s work in the depression was done primarily on behalf of the American Farm Security Administration (FSA). Later covering the forced relocation of Japanese Americans, in post-Pearl Harbour America to internment camps, Lange’s work was unflinching in it’s coverage, so unflinching and critical, in fact, that the images were impounded by the Army.

Lange went on to co-found Aperture magazine. She died in 1965 after long-battled health issues and finally succumbing to cancer.

A simple Google image search will make you immediately familiar with her best-loved work,  which I’ve always found gritty and human and a little confrontational in the best possible way. Lange contracted polio when she was a young girl, and always walked with a limp. She came through a lot, and I have as much respect for her tenacity as I do for her photography. There is an excellent biography of Lange’s life here: Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, by Linda Gordon.

If you want to see more of Lange’s work you might want to check out these: Dorothea Lange, by Mark Durden (Phaidon), and Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field, by Anne Whinston Spirn.

See the rest of the Study The Masters series here.


  1. It’s probably worth noticing that the scan of the negative of the “Migrant Mother” is available for download from the Library of Congress:

    As Dorothea Lange worked on commission for the U.S. government, the image now is in the public domain.

    As this is one of my all-time favourite photographs, almost unparalleled in its strength (only Eugene Smith’s “Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath” is comparable), the negative scan of Dorothea Lange’s photograph gives me the chance to create a master print of my own from it.

  2. Pingback: Study the Masters: Dorothea Lange / By David duChemin | JEFF CRUZ | ROUND PIXEL BLOG

  3. Such powerful images indeed… thanks for the reminder to look back at great photographers… who made incredible images with very primitive gear…

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