Happy Birthday Dorothea Lange

Photojournalist & documentary photographer Dorothea Lange was born on this day in 1895.

The shot known as “Migrant Mother,” immediately below, is among the most famous images of the Dust Bowl era in U.S. history. Lange was working as a photographer for the Resettlement Administration at the time, photographing farm labor around the state of California. Lange took five photographs of Florence Thompson, age 32, and her children. See below for more information from the Library of Congress about these images.

famous migrant mama

Migrant mama

Florence Thompson Migrant Mother































The photograph that has become known as “Migrant Mother” is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. Lange was concluding a month’s trip photographing migratory farm labor around the state for what was then the Resettlement Administration. In 1960, Lange gave this account of the experience:

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. (From Popular Photography, February 1960).


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