Friday, March 24, 2017


I loved a PBS "American Masters" on the iconic photographer, Dorothea Lange.  Photography and the power of the visual image have been very important to me for as long as I remember. The show highlights her early days in San Francisco (my old stomping grounds) and the events in our country which transformed her from a portrait photographer to a photojournalist. She chronicled the plight of humanity during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl along with the displaced and unfortunate among us. If you haven't seen the program, click this link as it is fascinating:
The amazingly powerful 1933 image above is entitled, "White Angel Breadline", depicting a man in San Francisco's Mission District during the Great Depression. This was the first day she photographed on the street. 
"I saw something and I encompassed it, and I had it."

She captured the fatigue and despair of this unemployed man in 1934 San Francisco. 

Entitled "Mended Stockings", this image shows a stenographer's stockings in 1934. During tough times nothing is thrown away. It is repaired and reused.

Dorothea Lange on top of her car in 1936. She was hired by the FSA, Farm Security Administration, to photograph the ruinous effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl on migrant farm workers.

The 1936 image of Florence Thompson and her children in Nipomo, California is one of the most powerful and iconic photographs of all time! Over 200,000 migrants, many from Oklahoma and Texas, traveled to California in the 1930's to work on farms.

A family at a shantytown in Oklahoma City in 1936. You can feel the desperation and hopelessness! 

Dorothea shot these 1936 drought refugees from Abilene, Texas following the crops to California as migratory workers. The father said: "The finest people in the world live in Texas, but I just can't seem to accomplish nothing there, two-year drought and so on. I got two brothers trying to make make it back there and they're sitting."

She shot this image of a Missouri family near Tracy, California in 1937.
" sick, trouble."

Between Dallas and Austin, Texas, reminding one of a covered wagon journey.

This image is San Francisco's "Social Security Office" in 1937 when the "Unemployment Benefits Act" began on January 4th. The census department reported close to 10,000,000 people out of work! They could receive between $6 to $15 per week for up to 16 weeks.

Two men walk toward Los Angeles in 1937. The cruel irony of the Southern Pacific billboard is hard to miss!

Mississippi sharecroppers in 1937.

Poignant photograph of a Clarksdale, Mississippi sharecropper in 1937.

Crossroads store in 1937 Alabama.

The Dust Bowl devastated farms, especially in Oklahoma, Texas, and the Plain states in the 1930's. 

Dorothea Lange's famous 1938 photograph, "Tractored Out", tells a story of the changing world of farming. Mechanized farming displaced many workers in the 30's. 

Listening to speeches at a mass meeting of Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers protesting the congressional cut of relief appropriations. 
San Francisco, California. February 1939. 
The WPA was the largest and most ambitious agency of the "New Deal" employing millions to work on public works projects around the country. Almost every community in the U.S. had a park, bridge, or school constructed by WPA workers.
Conservatives in Congress hated the program and cut much of the funding in 1939. 
Does this sound familiar?

Dorothea Lange worked for the War Relocation Agency, or WRA, in 1942. President Roosevelt created the agency to oversee and carry out the removal and imprisonment of the Japanese-Americans at the beginning of World War II.
Lange's photograph of a closed Japanese-owned store in 1942 Oakland, California is very powerful!

Japanese Americans board a bus for relocation to internment camps in 1942.

Dorothea Lange did not last long with the WRA as she photographed the people and the camps with total honesty which was not appreciated by the government at the time. She shot this in 1942 of the "Manzaner Relocation Center" at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California's Owens Valley. The living conditions were sub-standard at best. 
"Manzaner" was one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese American's were forcibly removed during World War II from December 1942 to 1945.

 We must not forget the past and must strive to not repeat our errors. I am very thankful for artists like Dorothea Lange who show us the humanity and reality of hardships of our country.  

Images: Oakland Museum Of Art, Library Of Congress, Kuriositasm Dorothea Lange, FSA Collection, Wikipedia, Open Culture, PBS

1 comment :

  1. Very moving visual testimony to our past. Loved Spiritual Journeys 1 & 2 also! Is there a way to add the facebook icon so that I can share on my facebook page?

    Thanks so much!

    Maria Hanley (October in Nappa is getting closer & closer!)