Dorothea Lange Biography

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As an accomplished photographer, Dorothea Lange had her pick of subject matter, particularly as she became more widely recognized for her talent. While teaching photography at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, Lange had her class challenge her to her own assignment of taking photos as part of "where do I live?" Lange submitted a portrait of her own polio twisted foot and the explanation that she felt she was imprisoned by her own imperfect body.
Having learned at an early age that beauty was not always about perfection and that strength of character was often more beautiful when framed well, Lange sought to find this beauty with her photography. She traveled extensively and had many assignments behind the camera, but one
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In a photo of her mother, Joan Nutzhorn, dated 1927, she captures a quiet, resigned beauty of a woman who seems to have seen so much, yet still has hope in the good of people. A woman with an iron will such as what Lange developed during her teens and twenties would not have been possible without such an example. She found this same sense of quiet strength in one of her most widely used and recognized photos titled Migrant Mother. A photo of a Native American 'Okie ' who had relocated with her six children and extended family to California in the 1930 's was within Lange 's portrait wheelhouse. She felt drawn back to the place where this woman lived with her total of eleven children, all on the verge of starvation and death due to work and food shortages and set about taking a series of photos that led to the final version of Migrant Mother. Lange intended to invoke feelings of empathy from her subject, but the response ended up being far more than expected, with over $200,000 in contributions for the migrant community at Nipomo after the photo was printed by the San Francisco News. This photograph went on to be used for many purposes, including a postage stamp and as propaganda; it has been debated by scholars for decades, even by Lange as to why it was so popular. She was simply trying to show that regardless of how far down it seems a woman has been pushed, she can still be a pillar of strength for those around her. As Gordon points out about the artist herself, "she was exquisitely sensitive to embodied emotion, but she also probably felt the complexity of Thompson 's [the migrant mother] anxiety because it was hers, as well. Nothing in Lange 's personal life was as fraught as her own motherhood and she lived with contradictory impulses every
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