Dorothea Lange: Making an Impact

omca at home
Dorothea Lange: Making an Impact

Recommended for ages 8+
Estimated time: 30 minutes


Black and white photo of Dorothea Lange holding a large camera while sitting atop a car
Paul S. Taylor, Dorothea Lange in Texas on the Plains, circa 1935. Photonegative, 2.25 x 2.25 in. © The Dorothea Lange Colle

Through her photography, Dorothea Lange documented the world around her and the issues that most impacted people. She was certain that people seeing the effects of injustice would—just maybe—change the world. Her photographs are more than beautiful. They are charged with a quiet outrage. She worked hard under difficult conditions to take photographs that help us understand others, encouraging us to imagine ourselves in such circumstances. It is the personal moments and human connection that make Lange’s photographs so moving.

In addition to providing insight into the past, it is possible to make connections between the photographs and the present. Indeed her photographs have served as inspiration for new generations of documentary photographers.

Today we challenge you to be the documentary photographer. Documentary photography is used to document events or environments that are historical as well as everyday life. These photos are created to make an impact, raise awareness and inspire action. Before taking your photograph, check out Dorothea Lange images available through OMCA Collections website and look for connections to issues of importance to you and your communities. 

Let's get started...

Step 1 Think about something that is important to you today that you want to raise awareness about and/or inspire action in your community. 
Step 2

Using the OMCA Collections website, choose one of Dorothea Lange's photographs as inspiration and recreate the photo in a way that communicates or raises awareness about what’s going on today. You can also create your own original piece of documentary photography.

Remember to consider the emotional impact you want your photograph to have and an action you hope your audience might take in response.

When looking at Lange’s photographs, think about...

  • What is going on in this photograph? 
  • What might the subject(s) be thinking or feeling? 
  • What is the issue or event being photographed?
  • What does this photograph make you think or feel? 
  • What else would you like to know about this image?

Before taking your photograph, think about...

  • What kind of connections do you see from then compared to now?
  • What are issues that are important to you and your community right now?
  • What is something important you want to photograph?
  • What do you want your photograph to make people think or feel? 

After looking at Lange’s work and taking your photograph, write about...

Share your Dorothea Lange inspired photograph with us, 
and then pass it along to your friends, family, or anyone currently learning at home.