Migrant Mother, taken by Dorothea Lange in March,1936.
This photograph is widely considered the most iconic image of the Great Depression, as it depict the struggle of so many to make ends meet. After driving with her family Thompson’s car broke down just outside a pea-picker’s camp in California. In the pea-pickers camp there were roughly 2,500-3,500 people camping there. Unfortunately for the campers who were expecting to be able to pick peas in the field, a freezing rain had destroyed the crop leaving thousands without work. As Thompson waited for her husband to fix her car she set up a temporary camp for her and her children. That same day Dorothea Lange discovered Thompson and her family and took a total of 6 images over the course of 10 minutes. Lange promised Thompson that she would never publish the photos however she later sent them in to both the San Francisco News and the Resettlement Administration in D.C.. Thompson is said to have been upset over the fact that she “never got a penny out of it” and that Lange never even sent her a copy like she promised she would. I chose this photograph because it is one of my favorites. Being an amateur photographer and having worked with film I understand how difficult it is to get such strong contrasts between dark and light tones. In this photograph the contrast, focus, and lighting is perfect (not an easy thing to do in 1936). I also like this photograph for the historical time period it represents. This image represents all of the mothers and families who were also trying to feed their children during the great depression. The reason I feel this image is so important is because it reminds us not to take anything for granted and that we must learn from our past. This image takes many people back to a time when international trade plunged by more than fifty percent and the unemployment rate was up twenty-five percent in the United States. If we are not reminded of times like these every once in a while we could be doomed to repeat them. It is photographs like these that keep us humble. It is photographs like these that help us to reflect.