While attending the New York Training School for Teachers (1914-1917) became interested in photography and enrolled in a photography course run by Clarence H. White at Columbia University, NY. (1917-18). She moved to San Francisco where she set up a Portrait Studio in 1919, and soon after transitioned into landscape and plant photography,
Lange’s Documentary Photography covers pivotal periods of the United States social and economic history in the first half of 20th Century.She documented the changes of the “home front” from displaced farm workers to ethnic groups and workers uprooted by the war.
Depression era of 1920’s
Following the Stock Market crash in1929 Lange looked for the subjects and event outside her studio. The landscape of people’s life and the society’s economic decline became the landscape of her photography Turning to the effects of the economic decline she took photographs such as General Strike, San Francisco (1934; Oakland)
Perl Harbor: racial and civil rights issues & the Japanese internment
Lange’s earlier work on Depression era’s farm workers and uprooted ethnic workers did not prepare her for her future assignments.
“Three months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the relocation of Japanese-Americans into armed camps in the West. Soon after, the War Relocation Authority hired Lange to photograph Japanese neighborhoods, processing centers, and camp facilities” (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/wcf/wcf0013.html)
Lange quickly found herself on the other side of her employer: the United States government.by creating “images that frequently juxtapose signs of human courage and dignity with physical evidence of the indignities of incarceration. Not surprisingly, many of Lange’s photographs were censored by the federal government..”
It was in 1972 that the true impact of Lange’s work was highlighted when ”
when the Whitney Museum incorporated twenty-seven of her photographs into Executive Order 9066, an exhibit about the Japanese internment. New York Times critic A.D. Coleman called Lange’s photographs “documents of such a high order that they convey the feelings of the victims as well as the facts of the crime.”