NYU Historian Captures the Life of Dorothea Lange in New Biography of Depression-Era Photographer


October 29 marks the 80th anniversary of the stock-market crash that set off the Great Depression-a period captured through the lens of photographer Dorothea Lange. In a new biography, New York University historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II.

October 29 marks the 80th anniversary of the stock-market crash that set off the Great Depression-a period captured through the lens of photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange’s photographs of the rural poor during the Depression-from the Migrant Mother holding her child to the gaunt men waiting in breadlines-are well-known. But what about the woman who brought us these iconic images of 1930s poverty?

In a new biography, New York University historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Behind the lens, Gordon finds a complex individual-driven, but exquisitely sensitive, passionate and businesslike, who was demanding of herself and others, but a generous mentor and devoted friend.

“Lange was by no means the saintly, self-effacing personality that many had assumed, extrapolating from her photography,” Gordon says. “On the contrary: she was driven by ambition, sometimes irritable, often demanding-yet uncommonly sensitive and generous. In short, a personality of intensity and complexity and, therefore, a particularly fascinating subject.”

Gordon found also that Lange’s life intersected with so many major historical developments that the photographer’s biography became the story of America from the perspective of an artist.

“She plunged into history, so to speak, unlike many artists who try to withdraw from it to follow their own internal calling,” Gordon observes. “Dorothea Lange was a bohemia 500

Cannot serve request to /content/nyu/en/about/news-publications/news/2009/october/nyu_historian_captures_the.html on this server


ApacheSling/2.2 (Day-Servlet-Engine/4.1.52, Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM 1.7.0_79, Linux 2.6.32-696.6.3.el6.centos.plus.x86_64 amd64)