Photographer Dorothea Lange’s images of oppressed resonate

Dorothea Lange was pushing by a pea pickers’ camp in the California shore when she stumbled over a weary mom and her several children huddled at a lean-to. The image she titled “Migrant Mother” became the late photographer’s most renowned work, capturing the dirt and despair of the era through the eyes of a 32-year-old girl who had sold her automobile tires for food. The photograph, electronically scanned and expanded, is now a dominant characteristic of a new exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California called Dorothea Lange: The forced relocation of Japanese-Americans through WWII echoes today’s debate over proposed travel bans, he explained, and her postwar work on shifting cities precedes struggles over gentrification in locations such as San Francisco and Oakland. Lange was known as a photographer of wonderful empathy, someone who invested time with her subjects and also took meticulous notes of their own lives for detailed picture captions.

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