teaching notes




PEAPICKER'S CAMP an anlytic exercise based on Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipoma California 1936 .
This session lookED at the choice of one image to represent from a selection of options. From the contact sheet (or those images available, is it possible to reconstruct the sequence of events ? We'll look at this image that has come to represent in many people's minds the deprivations of the migrants in America at the time of the Great Depression and "Dust Bowl".

In "The Assignment I'll Never Forget" Popular Photography Feb 1960, reproduced in Beaumont Newhall, Photography: Essays and Images Secker and Warburg, London 1981, she wrote that it was made

"twenty-three years ago, in March 1936 when I was on a team of Farm Securities Administration photographers... It was the end of a cold miserable winter. I had been travelling alone in the field for a month, photographing the migratory farm labor of California - the ways of life and the condirtions of these people.... I was on my way and barely saw a crude sign with pointing arrow which flashed by me at the side of the road, saying PEA PICKERS CAMP. But out of the corner of my eye I did see it. ... I drove into that wet soggy camp and parked my car like a homing pigeon. I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty two. They said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields and the birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tyres from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."


Think about the
intention and the choice of image;
analysis of the photographer's texts;
editing from a contact sheet;
pose, light, composition;
editorial use of photographs.


William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America OUP NY 1973;
Milton Meltzer, Dorothea Lange A Photographer's Life, Farrar Straus Giroux NY 1978;
R.Coles, Dorothea Lange Photographs of a Lifetime , Aperture, NY 1982.