I was reading about the Dusty Bowl Depression to try to find a link between that and Dusty Springfield (turned out to be Wellington boots) when I stumbled over the story of Florence Owens Thompson. She was portrayed by Dorothea Lange during in 1936. At this time she was a 32 years old pea-picker, mother of seven. Lange wrote this about the family “Seven hungry children. Father is native Californian. Destitute in pea pickers’ camp … because of failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tires to buy food.” Lange exaggerated. Troy Owens, Florence’s son, told the New Times that “There’s no way we sold our tires, because we didn’t have any to sell.”
31 words on a woman’s, a woman just like herself, misery. 10 of them were false.
And as grateful as I am for Dorothea’s work I can’t help but wonder where the world went wrong when she could sell vintage prints for $822,400 and the woman on the picture, iconic and immortalized, carried out her life working 16 out of 24 hours a day until she died of cancer in 1983. I’m not at all placing any guilt on Dorothea Lange since I believe that educating people about the world around them is one of the most important steps towards improving anything, and she did amazing job doing this.
But isn’t it rather repulsive when a picture of poverty becomes a luxury commodity?
Gordon L. 2009., Dorothea Lange A Life Beyond Limits, New York, W.W Norton &Company inc.
Frank, 2008., The Americans, Germany, Steidl’s.