Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the consequences of the Great Depression and influenced the development of documentary photography. Born of second generation German immigrants on May 26, 1895, in Hoboken, New Jersey, Dorothea Lange was named Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn at birth. She dropped her middle name and assumed her mother's maiden name after her father abandoned the family when she was 12 years old, one of two traumatic incidents early in her life. The other was her contraction of polio at age seven which left her with a weakened right leg and a permanent limp. "It formed me, guided me, instructed me, helped me and humiliated me," Lange once said of her altered gait. "I've never gotten over it, and I am aware of the force and power of it." Lange graduated from the Wadleigh High School for Girls and was educated in photography at Columbia University in New York City, in a class taught by Clarence H. White. She was informally apprenticed to several New York photography studios, including that of the famed Arnold Genthe.
In 1918, she left New York with a female friend to travel the world, but was forced to end the trip in San Francisco due to a robbery and settled there, working as a photo finisher. By the following year she had opened a successful portrait studio. She lived across the bay in Berkeley for the rest of her life. With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people, starting with “White Angel Breadline” which depicted a lone man turned away from the crowd in front of a soup kitchen run by a widow known as the White Angel, captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).