What inspired Dorothea Lange to get out of her San Francisco portrait studio in 1933 and photograph people on bread lines and others affected by the Depression?
At that point, she was supporting her husband, Maynard Dixon, the painter, and her two young boys with her portrait work. Her portrait work was innovative and by no means traditional. She said, “I had proved to myself I could do it, and I enjoyed every portrait I made in an individual way…but I wanted to work on a broader basis.” She felt an urge to document what was going on. Of course, her studio was right in the center of downtown San Francisco and overlooked many scenes of impoverished people. Mostly impoverished men. Women were generally not on the streets, they were trying to hold their families together. She also had friends who were suffering, and she was confronted with the desperation every day. Ultimately, she said, “The discrepancy between what I was working on in the printing frames and what was going on in the street was more than I could assimilate. I knew that if my interests in people were valid, I would not be doing only what was in those printing frames.”