This photo and its caption demonstrate Lange’s ethnographic process. The photograph appears to have been taken impromptu rather than staged as a formal portrait, as the mother looks away towards her other child rather than at the camera. But clearly, Lange spent time with this family discussing their experiences. The details also suggest the message Lange wanted to convey to policy-makers — that this family ended up in this situation through no fault of their own, and they were worthy of help and support, even when they didn’t want to ask.
While many of Lange’s photos depicted moments of misery and hardship, others captured more familiar scenes of domestic family life. Her photographs of families displaced by the Dust Bowl were often taken at meal times, revealing how the families cooked and ate on the road. Here, she even caught glimpses of the communal value that family meals could bring in spite of harsh surroundings.
Dust Bowl Refugees
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