Dorothea Lange Case Study

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Dorothea Lange and the Farm Security Agency:
From 1935 - 1944, the photographic program of the Farm Security Administration, embarked on a nationwide quest to document, collect and create a pictorial record of American life during the 1930s and 1940s. Spanning all fifty states, the photographers produced more than 175,000 black and white negatives, crafting one of the most immense and important photographic compositions in American history. Created by the federal government, the photography project spanned several government agencies, from the Resettlement Administration, the Farm Security Administration, and the Office of War Information. Although the photographic program of the Farm Security Administration was initially aimed at supporting
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When looking at the stark faces of the displaced farmers of the Great Depression one can’t help but feel their shame, anger, despair, and hope. In just one mere black and white photograph, not only is a whole person seen, but rather an entire history. Understanding the importance of photography as an integral form of human communication, photography became the keystone of the Farm Security Administration. By illustrating in a single image the despair and disaster the Great Depression and Dust Bowl brought onto fellow American people, the FSA and the New Deal gained support in their reform policies. “F.S.A photographers produced enduring works of art, helped define an era in American history, and called attention to the plight of tenant farmers, migrant workers and others who made a meager living from the land” (Morris). Although the photographs of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl can be valued for their artistic qualities, the photographic collection of the F.S.A can also be heralded for its photographic …show more content…
The power of these propaganda images of the Great Depression is no more glimpsed then in Dorothea Lange’s image of the Migrant Mother, that quickly became the symbol of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. “After its publication in 1936, Migrant Mother became a timeless and universal symbol of suffering in the face of adversity. The image was reproduced repeatedly, even retitled and refashioned to serve other causes in other cultures” (Curtis, 1). With the success of Migrant Mother, Lange’s photographs became increasingly influential in the F.S.A’s propagation of New Deal reforms, eventually becoming a symbol of the national agenda. “During the Depression of the 1930s her photographs became not only symbolic but almost definitive of a national agenda. The agenda aimed to restore prosperity and prevent further depressions, to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality. It stood for national unity and mutual help, and delivered the message the we must indeed be our brother 's’ keeper” (Gordon, XIV). Although the photographs of the Great Depression were propaganda, it does not detract from the important artistic and documentary qualities of the archive. Afterall, all art is a form of propaganda, as it is a

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