In 1936, Lange and Taylor traveled to the southern Great Plains to observe the displacement crisis of the Dust Bowl at its source. While highly critical of the ecological devastation wrought by over-farming and poor land-stewardship practices, Taylor was equally concerned by the large-scale commercial farms replacing smaller, family-owned ones and, in particular, by the plight of the tenant farmers who worked them. In Oklahoma and North Texas, Lange’s photographs captured both the parched, abandoned fields and the poverty and hardship that resulted, offering intimate portraits of farm communities impacted by the Dust Bowl.
When photographing farm families displaced from the plains, Lange seemed particularly interested in pointing to the hardships that predated the Dust Bowl. In Texas, she highlighted the experiences of tenant farmers in particular, who had long been mistreated by landowners. While often subtle in their critique, images like this highlight both the urgent material needs of farm families and the deeper inequities endemic in the American agricultural system.
To the Great Plains
Galleries & Exhibits
- 11865-1925: Hunger in the Industrial City
- 21929-1940: America in Crisis and Recovery
- 31945-1965: WWII and the Paradoxes of the Postwar Era
- 41955-1980: The Fight for the Right to Food
- 51975-1996: The Unmaking of the Great Society
- 61997-Present: How It Is — And How It Should Be