Dorothea Lange From Her Goddaughter's Perspective

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Migrant Mother, Nipomo, San Luis Obispo County, California, 1936. Library of Congress. (From "Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning," by Elizabeth Partridge. Published by Chronicle Books, 2013.)

Dorothea Lange’s photos, in particular her 1936 photo “Migrant Mother,” brought attention to the plight of migrant workers during the Great Depression. But as a new coffee table book reminds us, her career covered so much more.

Dorothea Lange took photos of sharecroppers in the south and Japanese-Americans interned by the U.S. government during World War II. Later, she would take photos in Indonesia, Egypt and Nepal.

Elizabeth Partridge, Lange’s goddaughter amassed the photos and wrote the text for “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” Though Dorothea Lange died when Elizabeth Partridge was 14, she has vivid memories of her godmother.

“I was always a little afraid of her, because the closer you were to her, the more likely you were to come in for her trying to make you the best you could be,” she tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti.

She also recalls Lange’s way of seeing the world: “She did have a powerful gaze, actually. But it wasn’t that she was translating you into a photo, particularly. She took in the entire world with that gaze. I mean she was so visual, everything — clothes flapping on a line, somebody gardening, incredible issues of social justice that she saw — that all went in through her eyes to her heart.”


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