Dorothea Lange

I watched most of the documentary on PBS about Dorothea Lange, the photographer renowned for her powerful photographs of the misery in the Dust Bowl. It was very interesting. I don’t think I ever saw a photograph of her. The documentary showed her a s young and old woman. Her voice was remarkably youthful in old age. Less well known was her assignment from the uS Govt. to take photos of the Japanese internment at one particular camp, to use as  propaganda that the Japanese we happy there. But she took photos that told the true story, of the stoicism , the misery and the unfairness of it all. I had seen some of them from my research for my first novel, “The Wrong Face”. There were many more in the documentary. The photos were so disturbing to the govt. that they were impounded and not released until years later.

The suffering subjects of her work didn’t mind her hanging around, taking many photos because they felt her empathy.

The documentary mentioned a few times that she was not good at mothering, of her children and the stepchildren of her two marriages. Aside from her personality, a working mother’s life required compromise. She spent months away from home at a time to pursue her vision, of documenting social ills of the time. One year, she farmed her children to families so she could be on the road.  That was in the 1930s and 40s. The problem is still the same for working mothers today.

I hope PBS shows the documentary again. I recommend it highly.

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