White Angel Breadline

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Object Details


Dorothea Lange, American, 1895–1965


1932, printed ca. 1950


Gelatin silver print


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Anonymous gift in honor of Thomas W. Southall

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Dorothea Lange was operating a portrait studio in Berkeley, California, when the stock market collapsed in 1929. Soon after, she started making powerfully incisive, socially conscious photographs of the deprivation and despair she observed in San Francisco, where she made this photograph of unemployed workers awaiting assistance in the early years of the Great Depression. She focused on a man leaning on a fence with a set jaw and clasped hands, who is the only figure in the scene facing toward the camera amid the mass of people. His anonymity is retained with the hat pulled low, but through her lens, Lange conveys a larger story about determination, resilience, and pride in the face of hardship. Her innate sense of empathy and photographic skill later distinguished her approach when she worked for the Farm Security Administration documenting the plight of the displaced across America. She eventually became one of the most important voices in twentieth-century documentary photography.