dorothea lang

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In 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, President Roosevelt issued Executive order 9066, which declared areas of the country military zones. This led to the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans to internment camps. The U.S. War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the relocation process in the Pacific Coast area.

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.

Over 100,000 Japanese American men, women, and children were relocated and detained at these camps. ( )… This internment is now recognized as a violation of their human and civil rights. In 1980, the US government officially apologized and reparations were paid to survivors.

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.

ASX Magazine

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Excerpts from Dorothea Lange - Grab a Hunk of Lightning: Her Life in Photos
The following book excerpts are from Dorothea Lange – Grab a Hunk of Lightning: Her Lifetime in Photography (illustrated; 192 pages) by Elizabeth Partridge. Text used by permission and published by Chronicle Books. Text copyright 2013 by Elizabeth Partridge, all…

“She had no camera, and had never taken a photograph, but she was sure she wanted to be a photographer."