“No country has ever closely scrutinized itself visually … I know what we could make of it if people only thought we could dare look at ourselves.”  – Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange. Impoverished Girl in Oak Grove, Oklahoma
Impoverished girl in Oak Grove, Oklahoma. Credit Dorothea Lange.

For a short period of time, we did turn the camera on ourselves. Dorothea Lange was one of the photographers hired by the Farm Security Administration to document life during the Great Depression.  Proponents of Franklin’s New Deal understood that urbanites needed to see what was happening across the United States, to visualize what children and their parents faced in the fields of Salinas, California, Harlingen, Texas and Chandler, Arizona.  For nine years, Lange and other photographers journeyed across the country, creating a library of over 80,000 photographs.

Migrant mother with family by Dorothea Lange
Impoverished migrant mother in California, 1936. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Child of farm laborer. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Daughter of farm worker. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Boy standing in front of tobacco barn. Dorothea Lange.
Boy working at tobacco farm in North Carolina. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Girl picking cotton. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Girl picking cotton. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Boy picking hops in Polk County, Oregon. Credit Dorothea Lange.
Eleven-year-old boy picking hops in Polk County, Oregon. Credit Dorothea Lange.