Discussion 6

This week the discussion focuses on documentary photography. This type of photography is used to document the on-going events which has an important role in the lives of people. Of course the perspective of each photographer is different and therefore the pictures captured to document any event can be very different from each other.

Migrant Mother

– Why the project has significant impact on the society?

The project has a significant impact on the society because Dorothea Lange traveled to many places to capture the situations in which people were forced to survive during the great depression. Her pictures were printed in various newspapers and people connected to her photographs.

– What was the role of “Migrant Mother” photographs in the period of great depression and what is it nowadays?

The project by photographer Dorothea Lange to document the great depression became famous only because of the picture titled ‘Migrant mother’. This project had a significant impact on the society because it reflected the situation of many families during the great depression. Many migrant farmers were facing similar hardships like the ones shown in the ‘migrant mother’ pictures.

Nowadays people can see these photographs and try to understand the hardships that people faced during the great depression. ‘Migrant Mother’ and her kids believed that hard work alone could keep them alive and her kids still follow that in their lives. In today’s times people can learn from them and get inspired to work hard and help those in need.

– Did Dorothea Lange present the truth?

Dorothea Lange did not talk much to the lady in the picture titled ‘migrant mother’. She just told her that the pictures would not be published anywhere. She also said that the pictures would help them. Dorothea did not ask her name or where she came from. Dorothea did capture the reality that the lady and her children were living in.

Later it turns out that, that lady was Florence Thompson. Florence said in an interview that Dorothea never asked her anything and just clicked 6 pictures in 10 minutes. She said that Dorothea may not have lied, but she must have mixed up two stories. She believed that Dorothea presented the truth in the images but that Florence was not a part of those pea-pickers, and she never sold any car tyres for food.

– Did the migrant mother like the photographs? Was she happy about them and the message they send to the world? Was her family happy with the photographs and how they were presented to the world?

In spite of promising her that she will not publish the pictures, Dorothea went on to publish them the following day in February or March 1936. The migrant mother did not like that Dorothea, showed her family to the world in the situation they were living in. She agreed to let Dorothea take the pictures so that the people facing those hardships could get some help.

Her family too, was ashamed of the photographs. But her children believe that those pictures gave them the power and strength to be resilient like their mother. The photographs reminded them of their past and helped them to work harder for living a better life.


MoMA Learning. (2018). MoMA Learning. Retrieved from MoMa: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/dorothea-lange-migrant-mother-nipomo-california-1936

Phelan, B. (2014, April 04). The story of the “Migrant Mother”. Retrieved from PBS: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/stories/articles/2014/4/14/migrant-mother-dorothea-lange