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Lovers, Richmond, California
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© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland

Dorothea Lange
American, Richmond, California, 1942
Gelatin silver print
9 7/8 x 10 1/16 in.
2000.50.19

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A quality that the artist responds to is the only way to make a documentary photograph. A documentary photograph is not factual, per se. It carries the full meaning and significance of the episode or the circumstance or the situation that can only be revealed--because you can't really capture it--by this other quality.
--Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange often sought out subjects whose lives were affected by government policies--including those whose occupations depended on America's efforts during World War II. She documented factory workers in Richmond, California, a booming harbor town near her home, where ships were being built twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

These two factory workers appear to be taking a break between shifts. The scarcity of their personal time is suggested by a parking meter, which reads "violation" and dominates the picture's foreground. Although Lange captured a private moment between the lovers, her view of them is not sentimental. The image's relatively dark tonal range underscores an ominous quality--in part suggested by the man's tight grip around the woman's neck--and the stark backdrop of factory buildings in the distance. Lange's low camera angle also isolates her subjects from their surroundings.