A Life Beyond Limits
Winner of the 2010 Bancroft Prize and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography: Dorothea Lange’s photographs define how we remember the Depression generation; now an evocative biography defines her creative struggles and enduring legacy.
We all know Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos—the “Migrant Mother” holding her child, the gaunt men forlornly waiting in breadlines—but few know the arc of her extraordinary life. In this sweeping account, renowned historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Gordon uses Lange’s life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, re-creating the bohemian world of San Francisco, the Dust Bowl, and the Japanese American internment camps. She explores Lange’s growing radicalization as she embraced the democratic power of the camera, and she examines Lange’s entire body of work, reproducing more than one hundred images, many of them previously unseen and some of them formerly suppressed. Lange reminds us that beauty can be found in unlikely places, and that to respond to injustice, we must first simply learn how to see it.
- October 2009
- 6.5 × 9.6 in
/ 560 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
Endorsements & Reviews
“Starred Review. Riveting portrait of one of America's most renowned photographers....Though largely sympathetic, Gordon doesn't shy away from depicting Lange's sometimes questionable decisions regarding her personal life. A rigorously constructed, entertaining biography.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[An] absorbing biography....Gordon's accounts...are equally perceptive and, ultimately, sympathetic.” — The New Yorker
“[A] masterly biography that illustrates the personal and professional struggles and achievements of a woman who was ahead of her time and who remains overshadowed by her work.” — Elle
“An astonishing and deeply moving biography of Dorothea Lange, America’s foremost social photographer. No other account can rival this one for its engagement or for its dissection of the passions, injuries, and hopes that impelled Lange to challenge the boundaries of gender, race, and family. Linda Gordon writes about her complex subject with sophistication, frankness, and sensitivity. In the process, Gordon demonstrates yet again that she is among the most gifted and probing historians of our time.” — Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century
“As Dorothea Lange’s biographer, Linda Gordon is fortunate that Lange’s private life was as complex—exceptional yet archetypal—as the history she documented in her photographs. The resulting book is superb social history rendered through a remarkable artist and personality.” — Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Carry Me Home
“A riveting, massively researched biography of a remarkable woman and great photographer. It's also an invaluable, cultural history of America from San Francisco's Bohemia of the 1920s to the Great Depression through WWII. Gordon tells us some amazing stories of such legendary photographers as the 'Migrant Mother,' and she also documents Lange's study of the Japanese-Americans and their oppressive internment camps. This is an absolutely fascinating study and a must read.” — Patricia Bosworth, author of Diane Arbus: The Biography
“Linda Gordon, one of our greatest historians, gives us an engrossing portrait of Dorothea Lange. Every page of this magisterial biography sparkles with insight into Lange’s life, passions, photographic techniques and achievements—and into the lives of the dispossessed farmers, unemployed laborers, and incarcerated Japanese-Americans who were her greatest subjects.” — George Chauncey, author of Gay New York
Also by Linda Gordon