Dorothea Lange Dies
On October 11, 1965, photographer Dorothea Lange died in San Francisco at the age of seventy.
Lange is best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.
Lange began her career in New York, later migrating to San Francisco where she opened a portrait studio in 1918. With the onset of the Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her searing studies of homelessness immediately captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the FSA. From 1935 to 1940, Lange's work for the RA and FSA brought the plight of the poor and forgotten, particularly displaced farm families and migrant workers, to public attention. Distributed free of charge to newspapers across the country, her poignant images quickly became icons of the era.
Born Dorothea Nutzhorn in Hoboken, New Jersey on May 26, 1895, she was the daughter of Joan Lange and Henry Nutzhorn. Dorothea developed polio in 1902, at age 7. Like many other polio victims before treatment was available, she emerged with a weakened and wizened right leg, and a permanent limp. When she was 12 years old, her father abandoned her and her mother, leading her to drop her middle and last names and adopt her mother's maiden name.
Lange was educated in photography 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. 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. One, born in 1925, was named Daniel Rhoades Dixon. The second child, born in 1929, was named John Eaglesfeather Dixon.
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).
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 camera to her, but I do remember she asked no questions. I did not ask her name or history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two.”— Dorothea Lange on "Migrant Mother" Quoted in Richard Lacayo and George Russell, Eyewitness: 150 Years of