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Abstract

Dorothea Lange created some of America’s most enduring and influential images as she documented the reality of the Great Depression in the 1930s and early 40s for the Farm Security Administration. Featured in government publications, printed on postage stamps, and used by social activists, Lange’s photographs helped define the era and the emerging field of photojournalism. This paper examines Lange’s motives and process as she tried to capture her subjects’ most intimate moments without exploiting their lives. It draws on Lange’s field notebooks and interviews and surveys the existing body of scholarship to assess how Lange’s life impacted her work and how her work impacted both documentary photography and America’s historical memory.

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