Human Erosion in California (Migrant Mother)

Object Details

Title:

Human Erosion in California (Migrant Mother)

Artist/Maker(s):

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895 - 1965)

Culture:

American

Date:

March 1936

Medium:

Gelatin silver print

Dimensions:

34.1 x 26.8 cm (13 7/16 x 10 9/16 in.)

See more

See less

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother . . . She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. . . . that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed.

Dorothea Lange's poignant image of a mother and her children on the brink of starvation is as moving today as when it first appeared in 1936. Lange made six exposures of this striking woman, who lived in a makeshift shelter with her husband and seven children in a Nipomo, California, pea-picker's camp. Within twenty-four hours of making the photographs, Lange presented them to an editor at the San Francisco News, who alerted the federal government to the migrants' plight. The newspaper then printed two of Lange's images with a report that the government was rushing in 20,000 pounds of food, to rescue the workers.

Lange made this photograph while working for the Resettlement Administration, a government agency dedicated to documenting the devastating effects of the Depression during the 1930s. Her image depicts the hardship endured by migratory farm workers and provides evidence of the compelling power of photographs to move people to action.

Exhibitions
Tradition and Innovation: Recent Additions to the Photographs Collection (June 20 to October 8, 2000)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 20 to October 8, 2000
The Public Record: Photographs of the Great Depression from the J. Paul Getty Museum (March 10 to May 19, 2002)
  • Pomona College Museum of Art, (Claremont), March 10 to May 19, 2002
About Life: The Photographs of Dorothea Lange (October 15, 2002 to February 9, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), October 15, 2002 to February 9, 2003
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
In Focus: The Worker (November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), November 3, 2009 to March 21, 2010
Route 66: The Road and the Romance (June 7, 2014 to January 4, 2015)
  • Autry National Center, (Los Angeles), June 7 to September 15, 2014
  • Autry National Center, (Los Angeles), September 15, 2014 to January 4, 2015