In the Fields

During the Depression, the rich farmlands of California beckoned the thousands of displaced farmers fleeing drought and dust storms on the Great Plains. In contrast to the small family farms they knew at home, California agriculture was dominated by “factories in the fields,” huge, corporate farms which required temporary, seasonal labor to plant and harvest crops. Powerful and well-organized growers controlled the system and ruthlessly exploited workers. Lange characteristically approached the subject of migrant labor by making intimate, penetrating images of the workers themselves. She took the time to make personal connections with the people she photographed under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. The resulting images can be considered collaborations between artist and subject.

I had to get my camera to register the things about those people that were more important than how poor they were—their pride, their strength, their spirit. — Dorothea Lange