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Dorothea Lange and Censored Images of Japanese Internment

Dorothea Lange’s pictures from the 1930s helped to create documentary photography. "Migrant Mother," her 1936 portrait of a 32-year-old stoop-laborer, which she shot on assignment for the federal Resettlement Administration, has become iconic, part of our collective memory of the Great Depression. The woman sits in a doorway with three of her seven children, staring into the distance, her expression an impossible combination of despair, dignity, and hallowed beauty. Over the decades and throughout the world, in countless exhibitions and publications, scores of people have seen this image and others by this major American artist. However, less than five years after she took "Migrant Mother," Lange shot another 1,000 photographs, also on commission from the US government, that are far less familiar. In fact, they were considered so revealing of this country’s bias, brutality, and shame that they were immediately censored and confiscated by the same government agencies that had commissioned them. They were of Japanese internment camps in California during World War II.

Excerpt from Persons Of Japanese Ancestry by Marilyn Richardson, Women’s Review of Books, Vol 24, Issue 3 (May/June 2007),  a review of Impounded: Dorothea Lange and Censored Images of Japanese Internment Edited by Dorothea Lange and Gary Y. Okihiro.


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