The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 6, 2013

Lange's photos documented Depression era

As photography is a wonderfully expressive part of the art world, this article is going to introduce to those who have never heard of her and bring back to light a woman whose photography made such an impression on the world. Her name is Dorothea Lange, who is said to be one of the prominent photographers of the 20th century.

Her name was Dorothea Nutzhorn, and she was born May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, N.J. Her mother stayed at home to raise her and her brother Martin (as did most women of her time). Her father was a lawyer. When Dorothea was 7, she contracted polio, and it caused her right leg and foot to become very weak. Being the person that she was, she came to appreciate the polio that had so much changed her life. “It was the most important thing that happened to me, and formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me.”

As often happens in families these days, her parents divorced. She blamed the divorce on her father, and took her mother’s maiden name as her last name, completely forgetting her father’s name, though both of her parents were a strong support system for her education. She also had exposure to creative works all of her growing up years.

Dorothea went to high school, but the regular subjects did not really interest her. Thus, she decided to pursue photography as a career. Columbia University was her choice. For several years, she worked hard as an apprentice, and worked for several photographers, including Arnold Genthe, who was a famous portrait photographer.

By 1918, Dorothea was running a successful portrait studio in San Francisco, Calif. By then she had married, and with her husband, Maynard Dixon, had two sons. They then settled into a comfortable life. By the early 1930s she herself became divorced and she met and married Paul Taylor, a university professor.

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