Dorothea Lange

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"He raised snapdragons and sweet peas."

While the United States acted with incredible bravery during World War II, one grievous mistake we made was the internment of Japanese-Americans, who were considered suspect merely because we were at war with the land of their ancestry. One such family forced to relocate from their home and community into a camp was the Mochidas of Hayward, California, seen in the above classic photograph, which was taken by the great Dorothea Lange. The original caption:

“Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags are used to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweet peas. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.”

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This classic picture taken by Rondal Partridge profiles genius photographer Dorothea Lange in California in 1936, the same year she snapped her most famous image, “Migrant Mother.” Posessing the eye of a painter and the sensibilities of a documentarian, Lange captured the rough-hewn life of Americans during the Great Depression, particularly that of the Okies. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, she eventually settled in San Francisco, where she opened a studio. Lange passed away there in 1965. From her obituary in the New York Times:

“Her portrait ‘Migrant Mother,’ is in the Library of Congress. In 1960 it was selected by a University of Missouri panel as one of the 50 most memorable pictures of the last 50 years.

She enjoyed telling newcomers how to improve their work. ‘Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion,’ she advised them. ‘Then pick another, or handle several themes at a time. Let yourself loose on a theme. It is the only way to make the most of it.’”

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