Dorothea Lange: Her Photos, in Her Own Words

"You know there are moments such as these when time stands still and all you do is hold your breath and hope it will wait for you."

By Caitlin O'Conell adapted from Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Chronicle Books)
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    Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Migrant Mother. Nipomo, San Luis Obispo County, California, 1936

    "Migrant Mother no longer belongs to me. It's all over! Why is that? I would like to put up a fine print of it, and along with it, one or two others that were made at the same time of the same subject: this is what it came out of." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    Off for the Melon Fields (Mexican Labor). Imperial Valley, California, 1935

    "I many times encountered courage, real courage. Undeniable courage. I've heard it said that that was the highest quality of the human animal. I encountered that many times, in unexpected places. And I have learned to recognize it when I see it." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    White Angel Breadline. San Francisco, California, 1933

    "I can only say I knew I was looking at something. You know there are moments such as these when time stands still and all you do is hold your breath and hope it will wait for you. Sometimes you have an inner sense you have encompassed the thing generally. You know then that you are not taking anything away from anyone: their privacy, their dignity, their wholeness." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    Farmersville, California, c. 1938

    "The words that come direct from the people are the greatest. They are those words that I wrote down in my notebook twenty-five years ago with great excitement, just hoping I can hold on to them until I get back to the car. If you substitute one out of your own vocabulary, it disappears before your eyes." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    Crossroads Store. Alabama, c. 1938

    "I believe in living with the camera, and not using the camera. Suddenly, if you are working a lot, it takes over and then you see meaning in everything. You don't have to push for it. That's what I mean by the visual life. Very rare." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    Korea, 1958

    "Can Asia be photographed on black and white film? I am confronted with doubts as to what I can grasp and record on this journey. The pageant is vast, and I clutch at tiny details, inadequate." —Dorothea Lange

    Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Saturday Afternoon Shopping and Visiting on Main Street of Pittsboro. North Carolina, 1939

    "The end of the day was a great relief, always. But at the moment when you're thoroughly involved, it's the greatest real satisfaction." —Dorothea Lange

    © Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

    Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning

    For more of Lange's photographs and insights, read Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning (Chronicle Books 2013).

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