“This is what we did. How could it happen? How could we?”
Life is full of photos waiting to be taken. There are countless moments in life that need to be documented. Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) took notice of the beauty of the world and documented it on film. Black and white photography is one of the illest artistic mediums on the planet and the woman mastered the craft. Dorothea used her camera to freeze time for a second and seize the world around her. Her photos are snippets in time that document American history as it happened. No photoshop.
Dorothea was a born and raised a Jersey girl. Hoboken to be exact. She was a member of a family of German immigrants. As a child, life wasn’t very kind to her. At age 7, Dorothea contracted polio which weakened her right leg. The disease left her with a permanent limp which haunted her for the rest of her life. When Dorothea was 12, her father abandoned his family. It was because of the selfish act of her father that she changed her birth name of Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn.
She spent her youth in NYC studying photography at Columbia University and working at a portrait studio. In 1918, once she completed her final class, she did what every wide-eyed college graduate does. She began to travel. Dorothea’s sense of wonder eventually led her to San Francisco. Less than a year into being a Cali resident, she opened a successful portrait studio. Young, educated, and successful it was only right she caught a guy. Dorothea ended up with another artist. She married painter Maynard Dixon and had two sons.
1929 brought a bittersweet mood to Dorothea’s life. In this single year, she gave birth to her last child and depression hit. Literally. The Great Depression had a tremendous impact on everyone in the world and the Dixons were no exception. Instead of wallowing in regret Dorothea took to the streets, camera in tow.
The most famous of Dorothea’s images are from her time depicting the unemployed, poor, and homeless people that sufferer during the Depression. The images are raw, pure illustrations of the hardship running rampant in 1930s America. Her photography gave the forgotten a voice. She brought the struggles of the Nation’s outcasts to the front steps of many. She captured people for who the were at that moment in time. Emotions exposed.
The photography of Dorothea Lange became iconic staples of the 1930s. Her graphic timestamps earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship for excellence in photography. She was even selected a professor for the first fine art department at the California School of Fine Arts.
During the last twenty years of her life, Dorothea suffered from bleeding stomach ulcers and post-polio syndrome. She eventually lost her battle with cancer of the esophagus on October 11, 2965 at the age of 70.
Image Layout: Phaymiss
- Art HERstory: Dorothea Rockburne
- Art HERstory: Diane Arbus
- Art HERstory: Margaret Bourke-White
- Art HERstory: Louise Dahl-Wolfe
- Art HERstory: Luisa Ignacia Roldán