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Dorothea Lange: A Photographer Essay

1584 words - 6 pages

Taking photographs may seem simple, but being a photographer is more than browsing through the viewfinder and pushing the exposure button. A photographer needs to know how to analyze the scene, speak in words that language cannot, and reach to the souls of people through a picture. During the Great Depression, many photographers captured the scenes of poverty and grief. However, there was only one photographer that truly captured the souls of Americans. According to Roy Stryker, Dorothea Lange "had the most sensitivity and the most rapport with people" (Stryker and Wood 41). Dorothea Lange was a phenomenal photographer that seized the hearts of people during the 1930s and beyond, and greatly affected the times of the Great Depression.
Dorothea Lange was born on May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. When she was seven years old, she had become lame from polio. Polio lamed her right leg from the knee down. Dorothea said in reference of her childhood illness that "I think it was perhaps the most important thing that happened to me. It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me" (Sufrin 75). When she was twelve years old, her father deserted the family and she never saw him or heard from him ever again. Her mother took a job in New York's Lower East Side and Dorothea attended public school there. She attended an all-girls' school called Wadleigh High School. During her high school years, she did not have many friends. However, being a loner helped her develop traits that helped her as a photographer. "Absent of friends and a teenager's social life, Lange spent time seeing and appreciating the visual images she saw in the everyday life of diverse and busy neighborhoods of New York City" (Oliver). She graduated high school in 1913 and soon decided to pursue her life as a photographer. In 1918, Dorothea Lange set for San Francisco and worked at a photo-finishing company. She soon opened up her own portrait studio. She was very successful in her studio and she even established a group of friends for the first time in her life. In 1920, she married Maynard Dixon who was twenty years older then her. She became one of the most popular portrait photographers in San Francisco. When she went on a trip to Arizona, she took pictures outside of her studio for the first time. This was where she first encountered people who were swallowed in poverty, hopelessness, and humiliation. She soon came to a realization. Dorothea Lange said, "It suddenly came to me that what I had to do was take pictures and concentrate upon people – only people – all kinds of people, people who paid me and people who didn't" (Sufrin 78). In the late 1920's, she had two sons. It was hard for her to juggle being a mother, wife, and a photographer, so her children were often boarded out. As the Great Depression slowly approached, tensions grew in her marriage with Dixon.
The stock market crash made her studio photography irrelevant since...

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