Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life

Director: Meg Partridge

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life is a lavish tapestry of candid, often conflicting, yet always intriguing, insights into the photographer’s life and art. The creator of some of the most evocative and powerful images of the twentieth century, Lange is best known for shaping our perception of historical events in America from the 1930s to the 1960s. Her photographs have become icons of this era of social upheaval: from the Depression to the uprooting of the dust bowl farmers, and the shameful relocation of the Japanese interned during World War II. Through her lens she immortalized the tension between adversity and human dignity during these changing times. It is also undeniable that these images gave a voice to the disenfranchised and spurred government into action.

Using over 350 photographs, Meg Partridge has created a sensitive and tender homage that allows the woman behind the lens to emerge. She creates a cinematic photo album of faces and people, searching for the heart of America. Partridge includes interviews with Lange’s sons and past assistants but more importantly with Dorothea herself, who is allowed to present her own work with measured eloquence and candid insight. The film is a wonderful mesh of personal life and work and the way they coincide and have been informed by the historic events that were her subjects. Even the notion of a woman photographer at that time was barely conceivable, let alone one who took to the back roads with only a camera, but it was Lange’s passion that made her a natural feminist, social activist, and humanist. Dorothea Lange, as well as the film that bears her name, is humble, fearless, complex, and inspirational.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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