Documentary Photography at the beginning


Dorothea Lange is known for her compassionate and thought provoking photographs of people. She is best known for her documentary style photographs of extremely poor people during the Depression. She was able to capture their stories and feelings in a single back and white photograph. She was one of the pioneers of this documentary style of photography.

Penniless family, 1936, shows a family traveling between Dallas and Austin, Texas. These people left their home and all of their connections in order to possibly find work somewhere else. They have little food and their car has broken down. Dorothea Lange is able to capture this entire story through one picture. She shows this family all alone in an open field. They are all looking past Lange to something on the horizon, in the direction of their home. These people look like they still have a little hope left. The man repairing the car shows that they are resourceful and hard working. The parents will do what needs to be done for their family. This is a classic Dorothea Lange photo where it documents the rural poor’s lives during the Depression. The reason that I like Lange’s photographs so much is that they tell a story. They also tell the truth. Lange is able to look at a situation and know exactly how to photograph it to show what is happening and how the people feel. She always focuses the photograph where the people’s faces are. The rest of the photograph is out of focus. I can’t think of anything that I would do differently.

Migrant Mother, 1936, shows a destitute rural family living in tent in migrant camp. This is a mother of several children. Like the first photograph that I chose, this one also has a small depth of field. Lange chose to focus on this mother’s face and capture to desperate look. This woman is not looking at the photographer. She is staring off at something past the photographer in a pose that looks like she is deep in thought. The children look tired. This photograph is also framed in a way that is reminiscent of paintings of Mary and baby Jesus. We can see that this woman is a good mother because the children are wrapped around her. Like all of Lange’s photographs, this one tells the whole story of this woman and her family. Again I can’t think of anything that I would have done differently. Dorothea Lange’s photographs had a very big impact on society of that time. They were able to quickly show the country what was happening in the Dust Bowl and how dire the situation really was.

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