Dorothea Lange

If you type the name “Dorothea Lange” into Google, before you even reach the “g”, the phrase “Dorothea Lange migrant mother” will appear.

Photo by Dorothea Lange. Presented by photo student.

This epic photo is the one for which Lange is best known, however, in her book I found this to be only the tip of the iceberg.

The first photo I liked in Lange’s collection was that of a Californian woman standing amongst tall grass and flowers.  She is smiling, and has her hand outstretched ready for a handshake.  The blurred background behind her is a beautiful landscape of trees and mountains.  Lange accomplishes this look by using a shallow depth of field, an element that is repeated not exceedingly often in her work, but definitely in the few photos I’ve already deemed my favorites.

The next photo, I’ve literally fallen in love with and unless my internet searching skills are just lacking, I can not find it anywhere though I would have loved to share it.  The caption under the photo reads “Gertrude Clausen holding Nancy”.  It’s strange.  The angle at which you view the photo completely changes the expression on this little girl’s (Nancy’s) angelic face.  The photo is of a woman’s (Gertrude Clausen’s) back and she is holding a bright eyed toddler with light hair and depending on how you look at the photo the expression on the child’s face can either be taken as jubilance or catching her in the middle of some baby talk.  I’m going with jubilance.

I guess I seem to like the same type of photographers, because much like Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lange gets close to her subjects, she focuses in and I like that, it’s more personal.  I feel that the more personal a photograph, the better story you can tell or take away from it.  I feel you get stronger detail from faces (especially eyes), bodies, an embrace between two people, when they are up close and personal.  Shots of groups can be powerful as well, but the reason I photograph people the way I do, one on one, is because of creating connections, rarely is there a third party, no interruptions, just a dialogue between my subject and I and a camera between us.  I think that’s why I’m so drawn to artists such as Lange.

The final photo of Lange’s I will describe is a photograph of a grandfather and his two grandsons.  What I find special about this photo is that the only thing present are their hands.  It’s funny to think that a photo that shows no emotion or expression can evoke both.  The act of the grandfather holding the small hands of his grandsons is so touching, so full of love, and I’d almost go as far to say pride.  Lange captured simplicities that some people take for granted and presents them in a way that they can not be ignored.


Book information: Oversize TR 140 L3 D67 1994 – Dorothea Lange.


As always I’m RJ and I’m going to enjoy the simple things in life…like, you know, more photo class blogging…yea.


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