Dorothea Lange was born in 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey, to second-generation German immigrants. Early in her life, she was diagnosed with polio, which left her with a permanent limp. As a result, she was constantly teased by other children, so she developed a strong sense of independence and empathy for those who were different or disadvantaged. Her mother, who was an excellent seamstress, taught her the importance of self-expression, and she learned to capture the beauty of ordinary moments from the world around her.
In 1918, Lange moved to San Francisco, where she studied photography at the local art school. After completing her studies, she opened a commercial portrait studio and began to document the lives of the city's working-class people. Her portraits of people from all walks of life were remarkable for their humanity and realism. She was also a pioneer in the use of natural light and candid photography, which led to her becoming one of the most influential documentary photographers of the 20th century.
In 1935, Lange was hired by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to document the lives of migrants. The resulting photographs have become some of her most iconic, depicting the struggles of those affected by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Her images of poverty-stricken individuals, such as her now-famous portrait of Florence Owens Thompson, brought attention to the plight of the rural poor and shed light on the injustices they faced. In addition to her work with the FSA, Lange also documented the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.
Lange's work has had a lasting impact on the history of photography. Her photographs have been exhibited in museums around the world, and her images have been featured in books, magazines, and documentaries. She was also a mentor to many aspiring photographers, and her influence can still be seen in the work of her students and colleagues. Her work has been praised for its humanity and its ability to capture the human experience in powerful and moving ways.
In her later years, Lange continued to document the world around her, but she also began to explore more abstract themes. Her work from this period shows her interest in the spiritual side of life, as well as her continued commitment to documenting the human experience. In 1965, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1967, she received the first ever Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.
Dorothea Lange's legacy continues to live on. Her photographs provide a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and compassion, and her work has inspired generations of photographers and artists. Her images have also become an integral part of the cultural history of the United States, and her influence continues to be felt today.