Migrant Mother | Analysis Photograph by Dorothea Lange (1936)
This is photograph /ˈfəʊtəɡrɑːf/, known as the Migrant Mother, is one of the most iconic pictures in American History. It was taken by Dorothea Lange at a migrant farmers’ cam in California. The photographer /fəˈtɒɡrəfə(r)/ was working for a government agency. She and other photographers took about 80,000 photos between 1935 and 1944 in an effort to capture the plight of Dust Bowl farmers and raise public awareness.
A close-up view of a careworn woman with her three children.
A baby is sleeping on her lap and two unkempt children huddle up close to her. They are hiding their faces behind her shoulders.
She is looking into the distance and seems oblivious (unaware) of the photographer’s presence.
Her right hand touches the down-turned corner of her mouth in an unconscious gesture of anxiety.
Her worry is etched on her face (her face betrays her anxiety)
Her deeply lined face makes her look older than she actually is (32).
Her sleeve is tattered / ragged (old and torn).
This photograph evokes the uncertainty and despair resulting from continual poverty. It came to symbolise the hunger, the poverty and despondency endured by many Americans during The Great Depression. On March 1936, the morning after the photographs were taken, Lange printed them and took them to the San Francisco News. They were then published to illustrate an article detailing the plight of the destitute pea pickers. The story was repeated in many newspapers throughout the country. Americans were extremely shocked that the farmers that put food on their tables could not feed themselves or their children. The photographer did not ask her name (Florence Owens Thompson) or history (background), and the mother’s identity remained unknown for over 40 years after the picture was taken. Lange took seven photos that day, the last being the well-known Migrant Mother. When Lange took the photo, she did not even know that the woman was a full-blooded Native American, born and brought up (raised) in Oklahoma, in the Indian Territory of the Cherokee Nation.