Dorothea Lange and the Migrant Mother

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Dorothea Lange influential photographer, documentarian and her photos of the Migrant Mother Florence Thompson, Documenting history, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, Migrant workers

Text of Dorothea Lange and the Migrant Mother

  • 1. Dorothea Lange and the Migrant MotherDorothea Lange and the Migrant Mother

2. During the 1930s severe drought, poor farming methods and highDuring the 1930s severe drought, poor farming methods and high winds combined to turn soil across the US and Canadian prairies towinds combined to turn soil across the US and Canadian prairies to dust. The dust blew in massive clouds across the country.dust. The dust blew in massive clouds across the country. 3. The dust clouds often blackened the skyThe dust clouds often blackened the sky 4. 20 of the worst black blizzards occurred across the Great20 of the worst black blizzards occurred across the Great Plains turning day to night.Plains turning day to night. 500,000 Americans were left homeless500,000 Americans were left homeless Black SundayBlack Sunday April 14, 1935April 14, 1935 5. Conditions desperateConditions desperate 6. Many packed and moved westwardMany packed and moved westward 7. What became known as theWhat became known as the Dust BowlDust Bowl forced tens offorced tens of thousands of families to leave their farms, many migratingthousands of families to leave their farms, many migrating to Californiato California 8. But California was not the promised landBut California was not the promised land 9. Workers had to compete for work with other workers and immigrantsWorkers had to compete for work with other workers and immigrants 10. Migrant pea pickers camp in CaliforniaMigrant pea pickers camp in California 11. TheThe Resettlement AdministrationResettlement Administration ((RARA) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency) was a New Deal U.S. federal agency relocating struggling families to communities planned by the federalrelocating struggling families to communities planned by the federal government but also bringing attention to the needs of the people affected.government but also bringing attention to the needs of the people affected. 12. The Resettlement Administration (RA) The RA originally focused on building relief camps for migratory workers in California during the depression. Many of the refugees were from the drought-struck Dust Bowl of the Southwest. The RA later folded into the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which operated until 1946 13. RA and FSA hiredRA and FSA hired photographers for publicphotographers for public relations to documentrelations to document that there was need.that there was need. This mission resulted inThis mission resulted in over 80,000 photographs,over 80,000 photographs, one of the most famousone of the most famous documentarydocumentary photography projectsphotography projects undertaken.undertaken. 14. Socially ConsciousSocially Conscious Photographer andPhotographer and DocumentarianDocumentarian Dorothea LangeDorothea Lange 1895-19651895-1965 15. Dorothea Lange was hired byDorothea Lange was hired by the FSA to document the ruralthe FSA to document the rural hardship she encounteredhardship she encountered across the countryacross the country 16. Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression But one photo came to represent the era. 17. Langes iconic photo Migrant Mother (Florence Thompson) 1936 18. Ethical Concerns:Ethical Concerns: Consider the series of pictures.Consider the series of pictures. Is there an element of stage management?Is there an element of stage management? Does the photographer participate in theDoes the photographer participate in the documentation?documentation? Can one document an event withoutCan one document an event without influencing the event?influencing the event? 19. I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. Lange 20. 32 yr. old Florence Thompson, pregnant mother of 7 in California Pea-Pickers Camp 21. The Migrant Mother Emotionally charged, and sad. A single poignant moment. Only 3 children shown, faces hidden 22. Ethical Concerns:Ethical Concerns: What about the subject?What about the subject? What responsibility does theWhat responsibility does the photographer have?photographer have? How was the subject treated?How was the subject treated? Who benefits?Who benefits? 23. Lange did not ask Florence her name. Her identity was unknown for over 40 years The photos were published days after being taken and resulted in 20,000 lbs. of food aid to the area. But Florence and family had moved on and received no benefit She bitterly resented the picture. Years later she died of Cancer and did benefit from some public support. 24. Lange did not make money from the photo but she did become well known andLange did not make money from the photo but she did become well known and successfulsuccessful She brought attention to an important cause and made a huge impact onShe brought attention to an important cause and made a huge impact on documentary photographydocumentary photography 25. Her photographs bring the subjects alive while transmitting an emotional, even raw, vitality that captured the human condition. Lange succinctly recounted her photographic goals while working in the field: See what you can bring home. See what is really there. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What actually is the human condition? http://www.katahdin.org/films/lange/more.html 26. The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. Dorothea Lange