Photos: Dorothea Lange - Part 1 - 14 images - Bio Data - Links

Posted by Ricardo Marcenaro | Posted in | Posted on 11:27

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography.

Early life

Born of second generation German immigrants on May 26, 1895, at 1041 Bloomfield Street, Hoboken, New Jersey,[1][2] Dorothea Lange was named Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn at birth. She dropped her middle name and assumed her mother's maiden name after her father abandoned the family when she was 12 years old, one of two traumatic incidents early in her life. The other was her contraction of polio at age seven which left her with a weakened right leg and a permanent limp.[1][2] "It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me," Lange once said of her altered gait. "I've never gotten over it, and I am aware of the force and power of it."[3]


Lange was educated in photography at Columbia University in New York City, in a class taught by Clarence H. White. She was informally apprenticed to several New York photography studios, including that of the famed Arnold Genthe. In 1918, she moved to San Francisco, and by the following year she had opened a successful portrait studio.[2][4] She lived across the bay in Berkeley for the rest of her life. In 1920, she married the noted western painter Maynard Dixon, with whom she had two sons, Daniel, born in 1925, and John, born in 1930.[5]

With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

In December 1935, she divorced Dixon and married economist Paul Schuster Taylor, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.[5] Taylor educated Lange in social and political matters, and together they documented rural poverty and the exploitation of sharecroppers and migrant laborers for the next five years – Taylor interviewing and gathering economic data, Lange taking photos.

Resettlement Administration

From 1935 to 1939, Dorothea Lange's work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten – particularly sharecroppers, displaced farm families, and migrant workers – to public attention. Distributed free to newspapers across the country, her poignant images became icons of the era.

Lange's best-known picture is titled "Migrant Mother."[6] The woman in the photo is Florence Owens Thompson. The original photo featured Florence's thumb and index finger on the tent pole, but the image was later retouched to hide Florence's thumb. Her index finger was left untouched (lower right in photo).[citation needed]

In 1960, Lange spoke about her experience taking the photograph:

    I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.[7]

After Lange returned home, she told the editor of a San Francisco newspaper about conditions at the camp and provided him with two of her photos. The editor informed federal authorities and published an article that included the photos. As a result, the government rushed aid to the camp to prevent starvation.[8]

According to Thompson's son, Lange got some details of this story wrong, but the impact of the picture was based on the image showing the strength and need of migrant workers.[9]

Japanese American internment

In 1941, Lange was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, she gave up the prestigious award to record the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA).[10] She covered the internment of Japanese Americans[11] and their subsequent incarceration, traveling throughout urban and rural California to photograph families preparing to leave, visiting several temporary assembly centers as they opened, and eventually highlighting Manzanar, the first of the permanent internment camps. Much of her work focused on the waiting and uncertainty involved the removal: piles of luggage waiting to be sorted, families wearing identification tags and waiting for transport.[12] To many observers, her photograph[13] of Japanese American children pledging allegiance to the flag shortly before they were sent to camp is a haunting reminder of this policy of detaining people without charging them of any crime or affording them any appeal.[14]

Her images were so obviously critical that the Army impounded most of them, and they were not seen publicly for more than 50 years.[15] Today her photographs of the internment are available in the National Archives on the website of the Still Photographs Division, and at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley.

California School of Fine Arts

In 1945, Lange was invited by Ansel Adams to accept a position as faculty at the first fine art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA). Imogen Cunningham and Minor White joined as well.[16]

In 1952, Lange co-founded the photographic magazine Aperture. Lange and Pirkle Jones were commissioned in the mid-1950s to shoot a photographic documentary for Life magazine of the death of Monticello, California and of the displacement of its residents by the damming of Putah Creek to form Lake Berryessa. The magazine did not run the piece, so Lange devoted one whole issue of Aperture to the work. The photo collection was shown at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1960.[17]

In the last two decades of her life, Lange's health was poor. She suffered from gastric problems, including bleeding ulcers, as well as post-polio syndrome – although this renewal of the pain and weakness of polio was not yet recognized by most physicians.

Death and legacy

Lange died of esophageal cancer on October 11, 1965 in San Francisco, California at age 70.[5][18] She was survived by her second husband, Paul Taylor, two children, three stepchildren, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In 1972 the Whitney Museum used 27 of Lange's photographs in an exhibit entitled Executive Order 9066. This exhibit highlighted the Japanese Internment during World War II.

In 2006, an elementary school was named in her honor in Nipomo, California, near the site where she photographed "Migrant Mother".

On May 28, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced Lange's induction into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony took place on December 15 and her son accepted the honor in her place.

In 2014, American Masters – Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning[19] premiered August 29 on PBS.[8] Directed and narrated from a uniquely intimate perspective by Lange's granddaughter, Peabody- and five-time Emmy award-winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor,[20] the film combines family memories and journals with never-before-seen photos and film footage as well as newly discovered interviews. A companion book, Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, by Elizabeth Partridge, was published in 2013 and is the only career-spanning monograph of Lange's work in print.[8][21]

Dorothea Lange (Hoboken, 25 de mayo de 1895 - San Francisco, 11 de octubre de 1965) fue una influyente fotoperiodista documental estadounidense, mejor conocida por su obra la "Gran Depresión" para la oficina de Administración de Seguridad Agraria. Las fotografías humanistas de Lange sobre las terribles consecuencias de la Gran Depresión la convirtieron en una de las periodistas más destacadas del fotoperiodismo mundial.

Primeros años

Dorothea Margarette Nutzhorn nació en Hoboken, Nueva Jersey (EEUU), el 25 de mayo de 1895. Se quitó su segundo nombre (Margarette) y adoptó el apellido de soltera de su madre, Lange. En 1902, a la edad de 7 años, padeció poliomielitis y como era usual en la época, los niños con dicha enfermedad recibían tratamiento de manera tardía, lo que la hizo crecer con una constitución débil y deformaciones en los pies, lo que no le impediría su carrera futura.

Estudió fotografía en Nueva York como alumna de Clarence H. White e informalmente participó como aprendiza en numerosos de sus estudios fotográficos como aquel del célebre Arnold Genthe. En 1918 se trasladó a San Francisco, en donde abrió un exitoso estudio. Vivió en la Bahía Berkeley por el resto de su vida. En 1920 se casó con el notable pintor Maynard Dixon, con el cual tuvo dos hijos: Daniel, nacido en 1925, y John, nacido en 1928.1

Del estudio a la calle

Con el comienzo de la Gran Depresión, Lange tornó el lente de sus cámaras de su estudio a las calles. Sus estudios de desempleados y gente sin hogar capturaron pronto la atención de fotógrafos locales y la llevaron a ser contratada por la administración federal, posteriormente llamada "Administración para la Seguridad Agraria" (Farm Security Administration).

En diciembre de 1935 se divorcia de Dixon y se casa con el economista agrario Paul Schuster Taylor, profesor de economía de la Universidad de California. Taylor forma a Lange en asuntos sociales y económicos, y juntos hacen un documental sobre la pobreza rural y la explotación de los cultivadores y trabajadores inmigrantes por los siguientes seis años. Taylor hacía las entrevistas y recogía la información económica, y Lange tomaba las fotos.

Entre 1935 y 1939 Lange trabajó para departamentos oficiales, siempre poniendo en sus fotos al pobre y al marginal, especialmente campesinos, familias desplazadas e inmigrantes. Distribuidas sin costo a los periódicos nacionales, sus fotos se volvieron en íconos de la era.

Madre Migrante

La fotografía de Lange que quedó como su mayor clásico fue "Madre Migrante". La mujer en la foto es Florence Owens Thompson, pero Lange aparentemente nunca supo su nombre.

En 1960 Lange habló de su experiencia al tomar la foto:

    Vi y me acerqué a la famélica y desesperada madre como atraída por un imán. No recuerdo cómo expliqué mi presencia o mi cámara a ella, pero recuerdo que ella no me hizo preguntas. No le pedí su nombre o su historia. Ella me dijo su edad, que tenía 32 años. Me dijo que habían vivido de vegetales fríos de los alrededores y pájaros que los niños mataban. Acababa de vender las llantas de su coche para comprar alimentos. Ahí estaba sentada reposando en la tienda con sus niños abrazados a ella y parecía saber que mi fotografía podría ayudarla y entonces me ayudó. Había una cierta equidad en esto.2

Según el hijo de Thompson, Lange se equivocó en algunos detalles de esta historia,3 pero el impacto de la fotografía se basó en mostrar la fuerza y necesidad de los obreros inmigrantes.
Con los japoneses estadounidenses

En 1941, Lange recibió el premio Guggenheim Fellowship por la excelencia en fotografía. Después del ataque a Pearl Harbor, dio su prestigio para registrar la fuerza de la evacuación de los japoneses estadounidenses (Nisei) en los campos de concentración del occidente del país. Cubrió todos los actos de reubicación de los japoneses, su evacuación temporal en centros de reunión y los primeros campos permanentes. Para muchos observadores, sus fotografías de muchachas japonesas estadounidenses presentando honor a la bandera antes de ser enviadas a campos de concentración es un recuerdo de las políticas de detención de personas sin ningún cargo criminal y sin derecho a defenderse.

Sus imágenes fueron tan obviamente críticas que el Ejército las embargó. Dichas fotografías están en la actualidad disponibles en la División Fotográfica y la Biblioteca Bancroft de la Universidad de California.

En 1952, Lange fue la cofundadora de la revista Aperture. En las dos últimas décadas de su vida, su salud fue bastante pobre. Sufrió de problemas gástricos, úlceras y los síndromes del post-poliomilitis.

Murió el 11 de octubre de 1965 de cáncer a la edad de 70 años.

En 1972 el Museo Whitney utilizó las fotos de Lange en una exhibición titulada "Orden Ejecutiva 9066" en la cual se resaltaba el internamiento de los japoneses estadounidenses en campos de concentración durante la II Guerra Mundial.

Photos: Dorothea Lange - Part 1 - Bio Data - Links

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