Like Esther Bubley, Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) documented the change on the homefront, especially among ethnic groups and workers uprooted by the war. Three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the relocation of Japanese-Americans into armed camps in the West. Soon after, the War Relocation Authority hired Lange to photograph Japanese neighborhoods, processing centers, and camp facilities.
Lange's earlier work documenting displaced farm families and migrant workers during the Great Depression did not prepare her for the disturbing racial and civil rights issues raised by the Japanese internment. Lange quickly found herself at odds with her employer and her subjects' persecutors, the United States government.
To capture the spirit of the camps, Lange created images that frequently juxtapose signs of human courage and dignity with physical evidence of the indignities of incarceration. Not surprisingly, many of Lange's photographs were censored by the federal government, itself conflicted by the existence of the camps.
The true impact of Lange's work was not felt until 1972, when the Whitney Museum incorporated twenty-seven of her photographs into Executive Order 9066, an exhibit about the Japanese internment. New York Times critic A.D. Coleman called Lange's photographs "documents of such a high order that they convey the feelings of the victims as well as the facts of the crime."
The Roots of a Career
[Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor on field trip], 1935. Copyright the Dorothea Lange Collection, The Oakland Museum of California, The City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor, Library of Congress (85)
Study of Migrant Workers
Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange, "Again the Covered Wagon," Survey Graphic, July 1935, pp. 348-349. General Collections, Library of Congress
Prototype for Field Reports on Great Depression
Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange, Migration of Draught Refugees to California, California State Emergency Relief Administration, April 1935, p. 12.
Documenting the Good Life
"Italians in American Support Allied Cause," Victory, Vol.1, No. 4, 1943, pp. 34-35, General Collections, Library of Congress (94)
Propaganda Poster Based on Lange Photograph
Dorothea Lange, "This is America: Keep It Free." Chicago: Sheldon-Claire, 1942.
Images Taken Out of Context
Dorothea Lange, "Close-up: Photographs by Dorothea Lange," Survey Graphic, October 1943, pp. 392-393.
Condition of War Workers Profiled
Impact of Internment Camps Examined