Life of Dorothea Lange
Dorothea Lange (Nutzhorn) was born on May 26, 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her father, Heinrich Nutzhorn, was lawyer, and her mother, Johanna Lange, managed the household. She had a brother, Martin; her parents were advocates of education and culture and exposed their children with literature and creative arts. At the age of seven, Lange contracted polio which weakened her left leg and foot. She had always been aware of the effects of this disease and once said, “[polio] was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me, and humiliated me” (Dorothea Lange Biography, Art, and Analysis of Paintings by TheArtStory.). Many kids in her neighborhood made fun of her and even her mother acted ashamed of her crippled daughter. Five years later, when Lange was twelve, her father divorced her mother and abandoned her family. Lange never forgave her father and blamed him for ending the marriage; she eventually dropped his surname and took her mother’s maiden name for her own. After her father left, Lange’s family moved in with her grandmother, Sophie Lange, who was a seamstress with a love for art.
Lange studied at the New York Training School for Teachers, but she showed little interest for academics; thus, she declared to her family that she was going to become a photographer. In order to pursue this goal and to start working, she found a way to contact Arnold Genthe; he was one of the most successful portrait photographers in the nation. She started working as a receptionist under Genthe and started to learn different photography skills from him. Although she worked under several other photographers after Genthe, his artistic sense and influence always remained with her. Lange also worked under Clarence White at Columbia University; White encouraged his students to individualize their pictures by using unique point of view and integrated photography of everyday subjects in his assignments and let his students truly see them. This concept was very important for Lange because her future works presented this concept as extraordinary within the average working American.
In 1918, Lange moved to San Francisco, and through her friends she was able to make contact with wealthy business owners and gallery patrons; soon after, she was able to open her own successful portrait studio in the city. Then, she married Maynard Dixon, a well-known muralist, and had two sons. As the Great Depression came around, her successful business started to wane, and faced a time of difficulty with her family and career due to the financial hardship. While she was in a time of struggle, Lange became increasingly dissatisfied with portrait work, so she started to experiment with new techniques, close-up shots, and simple compositions that emphasized shape and form rather than focusing only on the subject (Dorothea Lange Biography, Art, and Analysis of Paintings by TheArtStory.).
In 1935, Lange met Paul S. Taylor, a sociologist at the University of California. She assisted Taylor with his economic studies of migratory workers, and he eventually became her second husband. Impressed by her work, Taylor invited her to work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), a division of the U. S. government that represented the interests of American farm workers, including tenant farmers and people of color. The photographs working with the FSA started to become icons within American history and photography. In 1940, she became the first female photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship, an award for man and women who demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts (The Fellowship.).
In 1942, Lange was hired by the War Relocation Authority and was requested to document the internment camps of the Japanese-American population during the World War II, prior to the attack of the Pearl Harbor. The photographs threatened to be so controversial that they were not allowed to be seen during the war, and Lange was only able to see them twenty years later. Between 1943 and 1945, Lange also worked for the Office of War Information. After the war, she was so disillusioned with the failure of her work to enact true social or political change that Lange withdrew from photography for several years (Dorothea Lange Biography, Art, and Analysis of Paintings by TheArtStory.). However, by 1950, she started working again and participated in the Family of Man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Lange had the opportunity to travel to foreign countries in Asia, South America, and the Middle East when Taylor was appointed a foreign diplomat. Although she was able to capture and record variety of life photographs around the continent, her health started to exacerbate as she traveled. Lange died of cancer in October 11, 1965, three months before the opening of her major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Lange’s photography career is an inspiration for many professional photographers. Through her photography, she expresses the different sentiments and tells a history as she went through the Great Depression and the World War II. The photographs from these events have changed the views of many Americans and the way they understand the history of the country.
Abbey, Susannah. "Artist Hero: Dorothea Lange." Artist Heros. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://www.myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=d_lange>.
"Dorothea Lange." Spartacus Educational. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAPlange.htm>.
"Dorothea Lange Biography, Art, and Analysis of Paintings by TheArtStory." Dorothea Lange Biography, Art, and Analysis of Paintings by TheArtStory. Web. 10 May 2012. <http://www.theartstory.org/artist-lange-dorothea.htm>.
"The Fellowship." John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Web. 11 May 2012. <http://www.gf.org/about-the-foundation/the-fellowship/>.
By: Kyu Lee
Group: Gabby, Grant, Kyu