Dorothea Lange – Making History with a Camera

Born in 1895, Dorothea Lange was born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey. She studied photography at Columbia University in New York City and after finishing her studies, she decided to travel and capture the world with her camera.

Her Beginnings

After traveling for a while and earning money with her photos, she got a job at a photo studio in San Francisco, where she decided to stay. During this time, the Great Depression hit America and Lange began photographing the suffering of people in the streets, creating a substantial portfolio.

Quick Recognition

Her portraits of desperate men began to have an impact on people and she soon positioned herself as one of the best photographers in the country. It was all due to her ability to capture the suffering and emotions in people’s faces. Countless pictures of migrant workers begging for food represented a before and after in her career.

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Famous Portraits

White Angel Breadline taken in 1932 received immediate recognition from colleagues and the public. She also grabbed the attention of the Agricultural Safety Administration who hired Lange to make capture the working conditions of the rural poor.

Her most famous portrait, Migrant Mother taken in Nipomo, California in 1936 was the agency’s iconic representation.


Her first exhibition was in 1934 and her reputation was cemented. In 1939, she published her book called An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. In 1942, she made a record of the mass evacuation of Japanese-Americans during Pearl Harbor.

Then, During World War II, she worked for Life Magazine where she published a series of photo essays. By 1953-54, she was part of one of the MoMA in New York most famous photography exhibitions, The Family of Man.

Her Legacy

Dorothea Lange spent the last years of her life traveling around the world and taking photographs.

In addition, she spent much time working on her portraits, which focused on making people’s most human faces known. These portraits flew around the world and positioned her as an unprecedented photographer, whose work continues to inspire many photographers, these days.

Dorothea Lange is an example of a strong woman who trusts her passion and believes in her art. Thanks to her work, documentary photography has achieved a very important and influential position within the arts and journalism.