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Dorothea Lange: Making an Impact

Recommended for ages 8+
Estimated time: 30 minutes

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. 

Take your own documentary photography

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

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.

Dorothea Lange, ​Crossroads General Store​, circa 1938. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.
Dorothea Lange, ​Defender, Mother with Baby,​ 1957. © The Dorothea Lange Collection, the Oakland Museum of California, City of Oakland. Gift of Paul S. Taylor.

When looking at Lange’s photographs, think about…

Before taking your photograph, think about…

Use #OMCA to share your Dorothea Lange inspired photograph with us, 
and pass it along to your friends, family, or anyone who might be inspired by it.