Dorothea Lange: Style, Purpose, And Contributions

One of the most influential photographers of the century, Dorothea Lange has left a significant legacy. She is considered to be a documentary photographer due to the interest and passion she has for capturing the real emotions of people. She is mostly known for her photographs of the Depression Era, showing the poverty that unemployed men and women struggled with at the time. An example of this is her 1937 photograph titled “Six Tenant Farmers without Farms, Hardeman County, Texas” (Gregory, 2020). That is why her style can be defined as social realism or social documentary photography. The purpose of her photographs is not only to show the pain and suffering of the poor and the disabled. Her works aimed to convey those people’s strength, pride, spirit, and dignity. These qualities were much more important to Lange than how poor the people were.

Dorothea Lange made numerous contributions to the art of photography and photojournalism. She is the creator of one of the most enduring images of the previous century, a 1936 photograph, “Migrant Mother is”, also considered her most famous work (Gregory, 2020). Another important contribution was Lange’s interpersonal approach to taking photographs. This can be seen in many of her works; instead of being a witness to history, she took an active part in it by communicating openly with the people she photographed. She also believed that there is no photograph “that can’t be fortified by words, ” which is why many of her works are contextualized with very specific and artistic captions. One example of this is a 1939 photograph, “A sharecropper plants sweet potatoes with his 13-year-old daughter near Olive Hill, N.C.”, noted by Lange: “Her father hopes to send her to school” (Godoy, 2015). These moving and thought-provoking notes can also be considered as Lange’s contribution to the discipline and the art of photography.


Godoy, M. (2015). How Dorothea Lange taught us to see hunger and humanity.

Gregory, A. (2020). How Dorothea Lange defined the role of the modern photojournalist (Published 2020). The New York Times – Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos.