Dorothea Lange, Photographer


Dorothea Lange, Photographer

Lange Residence: 1163 Euclid Ave.

This secluded house beside Codornices Creek, which miraculously escaped the 1923 Berkeley Fire, was designed in 1910 by Bernard Maybeck’s brother-in-law John White. In 1940 Paul Schuster Taylor, an economics Professor at UC Berkeley, and photographer Dorothea Lange, together with their four children from prior marriages, moved here from a rented nearby home on Virginia Street. Lange worked in a basement darkroom. She lived here until her death from cancer in 1965.

Born in 1895 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn took her mother’s maiden name, Lange, after her father abandoned the family. In 1918 she came to San Francisco, opened a photo portrait gallery, and soon married painter Maynard Dixon. After their divorce in 1935, Lange married Taylor.

Under the sponsorship of the New Deal’s Farm Security Administration, Taylor and Lange documented the plight of rural, dispossessed, depression-era migrant workers. Her photographs were honest and direct.  One of the most well known is of Florence Owens Thompson (“Migrant Mother”), a 32-year-old destitute widow and mother of seven who had fled dustbowl Oklahoma seeking work in California. It gave an unforgettable human face to abused and abandoned agricultural workers. Taylor’s written reports together with Lange’s intimate photos helped focus attention on impoverished workers.

During World War II, the Office of War Information commissioned Lange to document the internment of West Coast Japanese Americans. These photos, deemed too controversial to release, were hidden by the government until near the end of Lange’s life. She donated her personal archive of negatives and vintage prints to the Oakland Museum of California.

Contributed by Robert Kehlmann, 2012

  • Lange Residence, rear view (2012), photo R. Kehlmann.

  • Migrant Mother (1936), Library of Congress.

  • Grandfather and grandson, Manzanar Relocation Center (1942), National Archives and Records Administration.

  • Home is Where-Berkeley (1957), photonegative, Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California.

  • Untitled (oak tree), Berkeley (c.1957), photonegative Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California.

  • Cal students listening to Peace Day address (1939), photo Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress.

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society