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Dorothea Lange

When Lange arrived at the pea pickers’ camp, she captured this picture. It is believed that Lange immediately took the picture upon her arrival and therefore it was not posed. Lange’s two sons and Jim Hill were not pictured because they had gone into town.

Nipoma, Calif. Mar. 1936. Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven hungry children. Mother aged 32, the father is a native Californian. Destitute in a pea-pickers camp, because of the failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tent in order to buy food. Most of the 2,500 people in this camp were destitute.

The second picture was taken from a distance and planned. Viola moved the rocker outside of the tent. She was 14years-old and spent most of that time moving from place to place. Therefore, it was difficult for her to get an education. It appears that Lange posed the family.

Persons in picture (left to right) are: Viola (Pete) in rocker age 14, standing inside tent Ruby age 5, Katherine age 4, seated on box Florence age 32 and infant Norma age 1 year being held by Florence.

This picture is posed. The picture shows Thompson holding her baby with Ruby resting her chin on her mother’s shoulder. Thompson would go on to have a total of 10 children.

Lange included Thompson’s locker trunk to show that migrants were always on the move. There is also an empty pie tin to represent hunger.

Lange tried to capture fear, shame, and worry. The picture represents poverty and the desperation of the Depression. The photograph came to symbolize the Great Depression.

“…a pose that would burn itself into the memory of American culture.” ~ James


Migrant Mother Information  

information about the photographs