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Who is Dorothea Lange ?

December 1, 2018

Lately, I went to an exhibition at the Museum of the Jeu de Paume in Paris about Dorothea Lange, a photographer who moved me deeply.

She was born in 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey. She began photography at the age of eighteen and she was the daughter of German immigrants. She moved to San Fransisco in 1918 as a portrait photographer. In 1932, during the Great Depression, she began to take scenes showing the impact of the recession and the social unrest in the streets of San Fransisco.

The exhibition is a set of 130 pictures which show us her social commitment. In 1934, Paul Schuster Taylor began to use her pictures in order to illustrate his articles. They worked together for 30 years and they were co-authors of the famous book An American Excodus (1939)  the purpose of which was to show the social conditions in rural states.

Her principal goal was to denounce injustice and change public opinion. In fact, it was a “form of oral history for future generations”, she wanted people to be conscious of the condition of the country . Her pictures show to the viewer a socio-economic disaster in order to dive into the period of destitution, famine, poverty, unemployment, … In fact, in her work she documents the victims of the Great Depression in a realistic way. She traveled the United States in her car and crossed 22 states. She stopped as soon as she saw improvised accommodation, tent, hut and went to the meeting of migrants. We clearly saw the psychological violence felt by people in her works, and their distress. It made me discover a new face of the United States.

During this exhibition, we can discover different types of her work: the Great Depression (1932-1934), a selection of work from the Farm Security Administration (1935-1941), the Richmond shipyards (1942-1944), the Japanese American internment camps during the Second World War (1942), and a series on a public defender (1955-1957).

She was the first woman photographer to get a personal exhibition at the MoMa, one year after her death in 1966.

In my opinion, this exhibition was very interesting and shows us the real life of Americans during The Great Depression. It made me realise that I was lucky to have an education, no material problems,…. Through the portraits, Lange tells us personal experiences, we see in the people’s faces the harshness of their life and thanks to her, we discover the real world in which we live.

You can see this exhibition until January, 27th 2019.


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