Dorothea Lange: Seeing People
Philip Brookman, Sarah Greenough, Andrea Nelson, Laura Wexler
Yale University Press, 2023
Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) aimed to make pictures that were, in her words, “important and useful.” Her decades-long investigation of how photography could articulate people’s core values and sense of self helped to expand our current understanding of portraiture and the meaning of documentary practice.
Lange’s sensitive portraits showing the common humanity of often marginalized people were pivotal to public understanding of vast social problems in the twentieth century. Compassion guided Lange’s early portraits of Indigenous people in Arizona and New Mexico from the 1920s and 1930s, as well as her depictions of striking workers, migrant farmers, rural African Americans, Japanese Americans in internment camps, and the people she met while traveling in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Drawing on new research, the authors look at Lange’s roots in studio portraiture and demonstrate how her influential and widely seen photographs addressed issues of identity as well as social, economic, and racial inequalities—topics that remain as relevant for our times as they were for hers.