Pictures of People: San Francisco Portrait Studio

In her early twenties, Lange and a friend left New York and headed west on what was to have been a trip around the world. After their money was stolen in San Francisco, Lange found a job at the photo counter of a drug store, where she met local photographers such as Imogen Cunningham. The Bay Area art community embraced her, and she soon opened a portrait studio that became a hangout for artists and bohemians. One visitor to the studio was the painter Maynard Dixon. The two married in 1920. Although Lange’s studio work is quite different from her better-known documentary photography, the experience she gained making portraits was critical. It allowed her to polish her technical skills and, most importantly, taught her to establish a personal rapport with the people she photographed.

I found myself in San Francisco in the portrait business, and it was a good business, I had the cream of the trade. I was the person to whom you went if you could afford it — Dorothea Lange