What Made Dorothea Lange an Iconic Photographer and Who was she?

Hi everyone, todays post is about, yes you guessed it Dorothea Lange. This month is photography month and yesterday was her birthday, I thought why not combine the two.

I must admit my favourite photographer is my own daughter, yeah you may say that I am bias being her mum, but whatever she turns her hand to she attacks it with finesse and creativity. Anyway on with my blog!

Biography

Who Was Dorothea Lange?

It was through the Great Depression that Dorothea Lange photographed men, woman and children capturing the very essence of a time when unemployment was at its peak, and where men would wander the streets. This was the time when her most famous photographs of migrant workers had featured the words of the workers themselves, It was not long after that she held her first exhibition which would pave the way and earn her a reputation as a skilled documentary photographer.

Lange was an incredible photographer, who had an unbelievable amount of talent, she could capture the raw and unfiltered emotions of any subject she captured. The photographs would steal your breath away, and just simply draw you in to every situation.

The Early Years

Born Dorothea Nutzhorn on 26 May 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S. to second-generation German Immigrants Johanna Lange a homemaker, and Heinrich Nutzhorn a lawyer. Dorothea was an accomplished American documentary photographer and photojournalist that included portraits, and those of displaced farmers during the great depression. She is one of the preeminent and pioneering documentary photographers to come out of the twentieth century.

By the time she reached 7, Lange contracted polio, which impacted her life dramatically, it left her right leg and foot noticeably weaker than her left one, which resulted in a limp. Later in life she would learn to appreciate what happened to her in that period of her life and look upon it as the most important thing that had happened to her, she once said that it “formed me, guided me, helped me, instructed me, and humiliated me.”

By the time she had reached her teens her parents divorced, it was her second severe trauma to hit her through her childhood. Her father’s abandonment affected Dorothea that much, she dropped his last name and assumed her mother’s maiden name Lange and made it her own.

Throughout her life, art and literature were a big part of her upbringing. Her parents were not only advocating for her education, but it meant that she was more in tuned to her creative side, bringing out her creativity through her works that would fill up her childhood.

After high school, she went on to attend the New York Training School for Teachers. Lange who had never showed any interests on the academic side, went on to pursue photography as a profession after working in a New York City photo studio, a decision that would change her life in every way. Lange went on to study the arts form at Columbia University, and over the next several years she would gain a wealth of knowledge and learn everything she could from several different photographers, such as Arnold Genthe a portrait photographer.

By the time 1918 came around, Lange was running a phenomenally successful portrait studio in San Francisco, with her husband muralist Maynard Dixon and had two sons, her life now had returned to her middle-class roots she had known has a child.

Interesting Facts

  • Dorothea Lange was born on 26 May 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey,
  • Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was a lawyer, and her mother, Johanna, stayed at home to raise Dorothea and her brother, Martin.
  • At the age of seven, she contracted polio, which left her with a permanently disfigured right leg and foot, which left her partially paralyzed, and led her to walk with a limp for the rest of her life.
  • Lange was an American documentary photographer, whose work shed a light on the plight of American citizens during some of the darkest eras of U.S. history.
  • In 1918 she decided to travel around the world, earning money as she went, selling her photographs. Lange money ran out by the time she got to San Francisco, so she settled there and obtained a job in a photography studio.
  • Lange’s work White Angel Breadline, San Francisco 1933 was the first in a series that focused on the effects of economic decline on working-class individuals and families.
  • First husband Maynard Dixon was an American artist (whose body of work, focused on the American West). they married in 1920, and went on to had two sons Daniel and John.
  • The Migrant Mother, Lange’s single most iconic photograph, caused a falling out between Dorothea and the chief of Farm Security Administration’s photographic project Roy Stryker when she retouched the negative sometime around 1939.
  • She co-founded Aperture, a small publishing house that produces a periodical and high-end photography books.
  • Lange studied photography at Columbia University in New York City under Clarence H. White, a member of the Photo-Secession group.
  • She was instrumental in organizing Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) famous “Family of Man” exhibition in 1955.
  • Lange sent a letter to her fellow photographers all around the world, to show “Man to Man” across the world, to the show dreams, aspirations, strength, and despair that is going on around the world.
  • Lange married second husband Paul Schuster Taylor in 1935, they were together until her death
  • Until 1935, Lange ran her own successful portrait studio in downtown San Francisco, a hugely successful business where she photographed the bourgeois and bohemian elite of the Bay Area.
  • Lange started her career as a documentary photographer at the age of 40.
  • In 1944, Ansel Adams and Lange worked together on a photo series in the wartime shipyards of Richmond, California, on assignment from Fortune magazine, and in 1953 they produced a photo-essay on three Mormon towns in Utah together for LIFE Magazine.
  • She was the first woman to be hired as a photographer by the Resettlement Administration (later Farm Security Administration) in 1935.
  • Lange was hired by the Office of War Information (OWI) to photograph the internment of Japanese Americans.
  • Her photographs influenced John Steinbeck, he was deeply affected by Lange’s photographs of the migrants of the Great Depression when completing his seminal novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Dorothea Lange and fellow photographer Ansel Adams had a lifelong friendship that started when the two first met in San Francisco in the 1920s, collaborating on photographic projects on several occasions,
  • She closely worked with Edward Steichen on the preparation of the exhibition and publication on The Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York,
  • In 1939 she published a collection of her photographs in the book An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion. Her second husband, economist Paul Taylor, provided the text.
  • Lange battled increasing health problems over the last two decades of her life, but still managed to stay active.
  • She was the first woman to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Photography in 1941, and to be offered a one-person retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, following in the footsteps of Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
  • Dorothea Lange was an environmentalist campaigner.
  • Inspired by a book titled The Irish Countryman, by Conrad M Arensberg Lange made a photo series in Ireland, she persuaded the editors of LIFE to commission her and her son Daniel Dixon, a writer, to create an in-depth study of rural life in Ireland in 1954.
  • Dorothea Lange passed away from oesophageal cancer on October 11, 1965, San Francisco, California.
  • Lange was admitted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and the California Hall of Fame 2008 after her death.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Enjoy the rest of your week and I will see you next week

2 thoughts on “What Made Dorothea Lange an Iconic Photographer and Who was she?”

    1. Thank you 😃 I’m glad you like it. She was such an amazing woman. She never stopped achieving her dreams despite all the difficulties she had to overcome. A very inspirational woman 👩

      Like

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