Towards the end of her life, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) reflected: “All photographs – not just the so-called ‘documentary’ ones… can be fortified by words”. Lange paid special attention to the human condition, conveying stories of everyday life through her photographs and the voices that drew on them. Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures brings together iconic works from the collection with lesser-known photographs, from her historic photo book An American Exodus to projects on criminal justice reform.
Published to coincide with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, this catalogue offers a new approach to some of Lange’s best-known and beloved photographs, highlighting the ways in which these images first circulated in magazines, government reports, books, etc.
An introductory text by curator Sarah Hermanson Meister is followed by organized tables of sources that broaden our understanding of the photographs. These range from Lange’s first engagement with documentary photography in San Francisco in the early mid 1930s, including her iconic White Angel Breadline (1933), to photographs taken for the Resettlement Administration (later Farm Security Administration) as Migrant Mother (1936), powerful images taken during World War II in California internment camps for Japanese-Americans, important essays published in Life magazine on Mormon communities in Utah (in 1954) and County Clare, Ireland (in 1955), and quietly painful photographs of the Berryessa Valley in 1956-57, before the region was flooded by the construction of a dam to deal with California’s chronic water shortage.