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August 7, 2020
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Explore Five Rare Dorothea Lange Photos From Her Studio Portrait Series

Discover Lange’s lesser-known photographs and more on OMCA’s new Dorothea Lange Digital Archive, launching August 10.

by OMCA

Dorothea Lange’s images are known around the world for their powerful portrayals of the damaging effects of the Great Depression, Japanese internment camps, and other injustices in America. While her most famous photographs captured the raw emotion of people in crisis, her earlier studio work featured portraits of San Francisco residents and those in her own social circle.

Lange moved to San Francisco in her early twenties and worked at the photography counter of a drug store. She met other artists and photographers, and eventually opened a portrait studio that quickly became a popular hangout spot for those in the Bay Area art community. She met her first husband, artist Maynard Dixon, in her studio and the two married in 1920. Her studio portraits have rarely been seen by the general public and give a much different perspective into Lange’s art and work than most are used to. Her earlier work helped develop and shape her technical skills, while also teaching her the importance of establishing a personal rapport with those she photographed.

Below are five photos from Lange’s early work, featuring photographs of her own family, portraits of families who came to her studio for keepsake mementos,Bay Area residents, and subjects whose details and identities are unknown. See more of these lesser-known images on our new website, the Dorothea Lange Digital Archive, launching August 10.

Hands, Maynard and Dan Dixon. Circa 1930

Hands, Maynard and Dan Dixon Circa 1930.jpg

Black and white image of a grown man's hands holding a small child's hands
Dorothea Lange, Hands, Maynard and Dan Dixon, Circa 1930 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Dorothea Lange, Hands, Maynard and Dan Dixon, Circa 1930 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Portrait session of the Armer family 

Dorothea Lange, Untitled (Armer family portrait) San Francisco, CA, 1932 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Dorothea Lange, Untitled (Armer family portrait) San Francisco, CA, 1932 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Portrait session of an unidentified family

Dorothea Lange, Untitled (Portrait session of an unidentified family) San Francisco, CA, 1932 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Dorothea Lange, Untitled (Portrait session of an unidentified family) San Francisco, CA, 1932 © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

Haas Brothers Portrait, San Francisco

Dorothea Lange, Haas Brothers Portrait, San Francisco © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

Portrait session of the Gomperts family. 

Dorothea Lange, Portrait session of the Gomperts family. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor

See more of Lange’s studio photography and rare photographic prints on our Dorothea Lange Digital Archive website, launching August 10.