In 1933, Dorothea Lange, a young, successful portrait photographer, picked up her camera and left her studio, located on Union Street in San Francisco. Compelled by the visible human anguish of the Great Depression, she traveled through the streets to a food distribution area --- a bread line --- that had been recently set up by White Angel, a wealthy woman living in San Francisco.
That day Dorothea Lange took several photographs. But the most telling was the one of an "unshaven, hunched-up little man, leaning on a railing with a tin can between his arms, his hands clenched, the line of his mouth bitter, his back turned to those others waiting for a handout." Lange tacked the developed image of this man on the wall of her studio, naming it "White Angel Bread Line." Next to that image, she put a quotation from the English philosopher, Francis Bacon:
The contemplation of things as they are
without error or confusion
without substitution or imposture
is in itself a nobler thing
than a whole harvest of invention.
Both remained on that wall for the years to come.
More significantly, the combination of these two reminders proved transformational for Dorothea Lange. From that day until her death in 1965, she applied her creative imagination, her commitment to excellence, and her skill as a photographer to record social and cultural events in America. Best known � and perhaps most lasting --- are her photographs of the 1930s and 1940s.
Hers is a social history: the seeing of those least able to have a voice during the pivotal years of the Great Depression and World War II. With camera in hand, Dorothea Lange recorded the forgotten men, women and children of the 1930s: the rural poor whose meager existence stretched from the southeastern to the southwestern states. Then, as Americans' attentions and energies turned from economic turmoil to fighting fascism, Lange used her critical eye to record the human dignity and pride of Japanese Americans forced to leave their homes and relocate to the internment camps.
Dorothea Lange contributed mightily to our history and her work deserves broader exposure. Dorothea Lange: Photographer of the People participates in this process. In design, content, and resources this website:
|Increases awareness of Dorothea Lange as an individual and of her photography as an interpretation of American society and culture.|
|Reveals that Lange�s work as well as her cultural and social perspectives continue to have relevance today.|
|Demonstrates that photographs are a viable medium to deepen historical understanding and interpretation.|