Dorothea Lange (born Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn) was born on 25th May 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey. An illness during her childhood left her with a walking disability and a life-long limp. In 1914 she began to study teaching, but ended her studies in order to attend a photography course at Columbia University with Clarence H.White.
In 1919 she began working as a freelance photographer in San Francisco, adopting her motherís maiden name, and now calling herself Dorothea Lange.
After the Wall Street crash of 1929, she focused on photographing people affected by the world economic crisis. She began campaigning for the needy by documenting their suffering with her camera. In 1934 her street photography was exhibited and published in "Camera Craft" magazine. Her work caught the attention of social scientist Paul S.Taylor who employed her in his California State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA).
Together they made a report on migrant worker poverty, which moved the government to pledge its financial support to the cause. In 1935 Taylor became Langeís second husband. Lange was commissioned by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to photograph the American farm labourersí disastrous predicament during the Great Depression, which she did until 1942.
The famous photograph "Migrant Mother" was one of the photographs Lange took whilst she worked for the FSA. In 1941 she had an exhibition in the Guggenheim MoMA, and a year later she documented the consequences of Pearl Harbour. Between 1943-45 she worked for the Office of War Information in Washington.
In 1954 she began travelling the world, and produced photo reportages on Asia, the Middle East, and South America, which were published in "Life". In 1958 she taught at the San Francisco Art Institute. One of her maxims was "Donít touch it! What I photograph, I donít disturb, I donít tamper with, and I donít arrange".
Dorothea Lange died on 11th October 1965 in San Francisco. A year later, the work of this socially engaged documentary photographer was honoured with a large retrospective at the New York MoMA.