On the Road

In 1934, Lange met Paul Taylor, a social scientist from UC Berkeley. Taylor was an expert in farm labor. He helped redirect Lange’s focus from urban poverty to the plight of American refugees. Entire families were escaping drought and dust storms in the Midwest, looking for work in California. The couple began a series of road trips to record the crisis. Working first for the state of California and later the federal government, Lange photographed migrant families jammed into old cars or traveling on foot. She captured the harsh realities of life on the road and shattered the notion that “Okies”—a derogatory term for the refugees—were lazy and dangerous. Her work helped create national sympathy for migrants.

All of that day, driving for the next three or four hundred miles, I saw these people. And I couldn’t wait, I photographed it. Luckily, my eyes were open to it. — Dorothea Lange