Gallery: Dorothea Lange’s Harrowing Depression-Era Photography


We heard yesterday that David Fincher, who most recently received Best Director nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network (and who is currently wrapping up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), is set to produce a biopic about the amazing Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange’s work put a human face on the Depression and its effects, and has been extremely influential on documentary photography as a whole. Her photographs are also said to have been a large impact on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath , which is no mean feat. The as-yet untitled film will recount her life, including her early struggles with polio, and her profound work in the most desperate of times. Needless to say, we’re pretty excited, and to celebrate we’ve collected some of the most affecting (to our eyes) Lange prints for your perusal. Click through to see our favorites, and let us know if we’ve missed any of yours in the comments!

“Destitute pea pickers living in tent in migrant camp. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two.” Nipomo, California. February 1936.

California, March 1937. “Toward Los Angeles.”

November 1936. “Daughter of migrant Tennessee coal miner. Living in American River camp near Sacramento, California.”

October 1939. “Dazey farm. Seventeen year old boy going to feed the pigs. Homedale district, Malheur County, Oregon.”

July 1939. Gordonton, North Carolina. “Country store on dirt road. Sunday afternoon. Note kerosene pump on the right and the gasoline pump on the left. Rough, unfinished timber posts have been used as supports for porch roof. Negro men sitting on the porch. Brother of store owner stands in doorway.”

June 1938. “Butter bean vines across the porch. Negro quarter in Memphis, Tennessee.”

November 1938. “Migrant cotton picker’s child who lives in a tent in the government camp instead of along the highway or in a ditch bank. Shafter Camp, California.”

November 1938. “Farm woman beside her barn door. Tulare County, California. No more horseshoes!”

August 17, 1936. Blythe, California. “Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. The official at the border inspection service said that on this day, 23 carloads and truckloads of migrant families out of the drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through from Arizona entering California.”

Child living in Oklahoma City shacktown. August 1936.

Oregon, August 1939. “Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note Social Security number tattooed on arm.”

October 1939. “Mrs. Sam Cates, wife of Cow Hollow farmer. Malheur County, Oregon.”

October 1939. Farm Security Administration camp unit at Merrill, Oregon.

November 1936. “American River camp, Sacramento, California. Destitute family. Five children, aged two to seventeen years.”

June 1937. “Wife of Texas tenant farmer. The wide lands of the Texas Panhandle are typically operated by white tenant farmers, i.e., those who possess teams and tools and some managerial capacity.”

June 1938. Outskirts of El Paso, Texas. “Young Negro wife cooking breakfast. ‘Do you suppose I’d be out on the highway cooking my steak if I had it good at home?’ Occupations: hotel maid, cook, laundress.”

December 1935. “Resettled farm child. From Taos Junction to Bosque Farms project, New Mexico.”

August 1936. Drought refugees from Abilene, Texas, following the crops of California as migratory workers. Said the father: “The finest people in this world live in Texas but I just can’t seem to accomplish nothin’ there. Two year drought, then a crop, then two years drought and so on. I got two brothers still trying to make it back there.”

May 1939. “Between Tulare and Fresno on U.S. 99. Farmer from Independence, Kansas, on the road at cotton chopping time. He and his family have been in California for six months.”

Dorothea Lange herself. February 1936.