Dorothea Lange: Grab A Hunk of Lightning - “Migrant Mother” Photo Series at the Library of Congress

On March 11, 1936, Dorthea Lange’s iconic image, Migrant Mother, was published in the San Francisco News. Since that first publication, the iconic photo has come to represent America’s Great Depression and the strain of poverty in rural America.

Migrant Mother is part of the body of work Dorothea Lange created while working for the Farm Security Administration. Many of Lange’s photographs of migrant farmers, sharecroppers and Dust Bowl farmers from that period are held today at the Library of Congress. While researching the film  American Masters — Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, director Dyanna Taylor – Lange’s granddaughter – visited the Library of Congress to discuss Lange’s photos with a curator at the library.

Migrant Mother is just one of a series of photos Lange shot at a pea pickers’ camp in California. It was a stop she almost didn’t make. She had passed the sign for the camp while driving home from another assignment, and after some miles of thinking about it, turned her car around to visit the camp. The story of the photo is discussed in Taylor’s very first visit to the Lange collection at the Library of Congress, which was filmed for Picturing America (July 2011), a program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Learn about the life of the woman depicted in the famous photograph, in this Antiques Roadshow article on Florence Thompson. Antiques Roadshow appraises the Migrant Mother photograph in a web exclusive video.