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Photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was moved by the poverty she saw during the Great Depression, and she used her camera to do something about it. Her powerful images were meant to communicate the dignity people could maintain in the face of great hardship, and to inspire compassion in the more fortunate and action on the part of the government. Her photographs, with the essays and captions provided by her husband and collaborator labor economist Paul Schuster Taylor, had an emotional impact on millions of people.

Perhaps the best known of the documentary photographers who still influence our visual understanding of the 1930s and 40s, Lange photographed the strikes and breadlines of San Francisco in the early 1930s. She began work for the Resettlement Administration in 1935, and made photographs, including Migrant Mother, that became symbols of the depression. She photographed Japanese internment camps and women and minorities doing war work during World War II, and dedicated her life to documenting the human condition with compassion and a quiet power.

These two photographs are from San Francisco, May Day 1934.

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