Dorothea Lange – Migrant Family
Better known as Migrant Mother, this iamge is a portrait of Florence Owens Thompson and her childern, made at a pea pickers camp at Nipomo, California. Dorothea Lange pictures the family as both resilient and vulnerable. She saw her photography as “a tool of research”, and this image was made during a field trip for aa Resettlement Administration. It brought the plight of migrant workers and the extent of rural poverty to public attention.
However, controversy surrounds the photograph because it was published after Lange has assured Owens that it would be used for research purposes only.
Lange made six exposures of Owens holding an infant, with two of her children standing on either side of her, heads bowed, faces averted from the camera. This close-up focuses attention on the passive demeanor of the poorly dressed, prematurely aged woman, gazing pensively away from the camera. In fact, everyone in the photograph is passive, submitting to the camera. The construction of the photograph, with a child on either side of Owens, has a powerful symmetry – a Madonna flanked by cherubs, bedraggled poverty.
There is always more then one way how to tell the story. In this case ‘Migrant Mother’ is overwhelming and vulnerable photograph. It brings across the mood of the place and shows to the people how poor and passive is this family with no support and help from anyone.
I think that this is the most powerful image out of them all, showing the close up of the mother and her children.