Bearing Witness: The Public Defender Series

In 1957, Lange began a project to document the work of a young public defender in Oakland named Martin Pulich. Over several months, she photographed him as he met with clients and argued in court. Her images reveal empathy for prisoners and their families as they experienced booking, arrest, and court appearances. The series is a powerful essay on the urban criminal justice system, with all of its inequities of race and class. Lange strongly identified with the public defender’s drive and idealism, itself a form of activism.

The defender is not a Defender by anything but choice. It would have been easy for him to make a lot more money with a lot less effort in private practice. — Dorothea Lange