Photography - Cotton Sharecropper Family | Artopia


A Closer Look

Dorothea Lange has been called the greatest American documentary photographer, in part because her pictures gave dignity to people who had lost everything. This family may have fled to Mississippi from the terrible drought and dust bowls that ruined farms in the Midwest during the 1930's. Notice the angle of the photograph. A low angle shot like this makes the subjects appear to tower over the viewer. How does it make you feel about the people in the picture?

About the Media

During the Great Depression, the government created work for writers, scholars and artists through a number of different programs. Working on a federal photography project for the Farm Security Administration, Dorothea Lange traveled to the South with her partner and husband, Paul Taylor, photographing out-of-work sharecroppers and their families. This picture was taken near Cleveland, Mississippi. She said, "I had to get my camera to register things that were more important than how poor they were--their pride, their strength, their spirit."

About the Artist

Dorothea Lange decided at 18 that she would become a photographer. She went to San Francisco where she she got her start taking portraits of wealthy people. But she wanted to be a "photographer of the people." The economist Paul Taylor hired her to take photos for his reports on the poor conditions of migrant workers. Today she is best known for her photographs of farmworkers taken during the Great Depression.

Write About It

  • Make a list of what you see in the photograph.
  • How does the photographer use the elements and principles of design?
  • What is your opinion of the photograph? How does it make you feel?