Influential Photographs: Migrant Mother, 1936 by Dorothea Lange


Dorothea Lange’s photograph, entitled Migrant Mother, expressed deep emotional impact. The creases on the mother’s face showed despair and longing. Her desperate eyes yielded a flicker of hope. Her children were the pillars of her strength. She was a woman who battled depression.

image from

The Great Depression was a chronic economic decline in the world during the 1930s. This iconic photograph of a woman with a sullen and wrinkled face, two children whose faces are buried on her sides and an infant sleeping on her lap portrayed and unified the depressing and desperate state of the people at that time.

Dorothea Lange, an American documentary photographer, shot this emotional portrait of Florence Owens Thompson in March 1936. Thompson was 32 and had 7 hungry children. Her family was one of the destitute pea pickers in California. They lived on frozen vegetables and were on the brink of starvation. Lange was drawn to the mother like a magnet and she photographed her and her children. She drew closer and closer to the family and without any hesitation or questions, Lange shot different exposures:

images from

Lange certainly engraved a face of a Migrant Mother in our minds – a mother who portrayed the strength of American womanhood during the Great Depression.

Read more about the Influential Photographs Series.

Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.

written by basterda on 2011-03-30 #lifestyle #black-and-white #iconic #photojournalism #dorothea-lange #migrant-mother #influential-photographs-series #great-depression

One Comment

  1. sthomas68
    sthomas68 ·

    My mom would have been about the age of those children. I remember her stories of the dust bowl in Texas...

More Interesting Articles