One of the most iconic images of the Great Depression was a photo of Florence Thompson taken by Dorothea Lange. The pictures were part of the “Migrant Mother” series, documenting the conditions of extreme poverty among some California farm workers.

Florence Thompson with two of her children

“I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet,” Dorothea Lange told Popular Photography in 1960. “I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”

1936-Migrant agricultural worker family (2)

1936-Migrant agricultural worker family (5)

1936-Migrant agricultural worker family (4)

1936-Migrant agricultural worker family (1)

1936-Migrant agricultural worker family (3)

These photos, as described by the Library of Congress: “Migrant agricultural worker’s family. Seven hungry children. Mother aged thirty-two. Father is a native Californian. Destitute in pea picker’s camp, Nipomo, California, because of the failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tent in order to buy food. Of the twenty-five hundred people in this camp, most of them were destitute.”

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Filed under: 1930s, Family & parenting, Money & work, Photos & photography

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