Social Reportage: Dorothea Lange & Lewis Hine

The social changes of the late 19th century were largely at the expense of the working class and the poor. Documentary photographers Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine helped raise awareness of disenfranchised populations. As we continue our portraiture unit, take a few minutes to analyze how Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine captured powerful stories in their portraits.

DOROTHEA LANGE (1895-1965)

Dorothea Lange was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange’s photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. Her photograph, Migrant Mother, is the most famous of the FSA photographs. Lange had promised not to publish the photo and use it only to obtain food. Food was indeed rushed to the camp when bureaucrats saw the images, but two of the pictures were published, and one of them become iconic almost overnight. View more of Dorothea Lange’s work at The History Place and the Museum of Modern Art.

Dorothea_Lange,_Migrant_mother_(alternative),_Nipomo,_California,_1936

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

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The Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California. Digitized for the Oakland Museum of California Museum Technology Initiative for Educational Outreach, July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

Dorothea_Lange,_The_Arnold_children,_Michigan_Hill,_Washington,_1939

LEWIS HINE (1874-1940)

Though Lewis Hine was a sociologist by trade, his photographs of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island led to a commission from the reforming National Child Labor Committee. Often working undercover or with a false identity, Hine undertook a photographic survey of child labor from 1908-1918, which produced a monumentally damning body of 5,000 images. Hine supported every image with full details of the child, his or her working conditions, and even wages. By 1919, he was receiving recognition as a photographer as well as a reformer, but continued working for government agencies. Sadly, by the late 1930s, his contribution to society was no longer valued and he spent his last days homeless and on welfare. Even his prints were not wanted and were turned down by MoMA. Luckily, the George Eastman house, the world’s oldest photography museum, took them in. See more of Lewis Hine’s work at The History Place and The Getty.

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Lewis-Hine-Richard-Green-with-hat-5-year-old-newsie.-Many-of-these-little-newsboys-here.-Richmond-Virginia-1911

Today we will:

  • continue taking portraits of people
  • create a new blog post with the following:
    • the best photos you took today
    • a few sentences explaining what went well, as what as what challenges you still face regarding portrait photography
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