About the Holiday
National Photography Month was established in 1987 by the United States Congress to commemorate the importance of photos to present and future generations. National Photo month gives you an opportunity to consider what you photograph and how you can become more intentional about making photos that will be meaningful decades from now. Look at your subjects and see the colors, people, events, the culture—even the moment that you are documenting. Once you’ve taken your pictures, don’t just leave them on your phone, in the cloud, or on your hard drive. Print them and archive them for the future. Your inspiration, perspective, and opinions will live on in them.
Dorothea’s Eyes: Dorothea Lange Photographs the Truth
Written by Barb Rosenstock | Illustrated by Gérard DuBois
When Dorothea Lange opens her green eyes, she sees things others miss. In the shadows, in patterns within the grain of wooden tables, in the repeated shapes of windows on a wall, and most especially in people’s faces. “Dorothea loves faces! When Dorothea looks at faces, it’s like she’s hugging the world.”
When Dorothea is seven she contracts polio. The disease withers her right leg and forever after she walks with a limp. Other kids tease her and make her want to hide. Her mother encourages her, but Dorothea pretends to be invisible. When her father leaves his family, her mother gets a job in New York and Dorothea goes to a new school. She is different and lonely.
As Dorothea waits for her mother to finish work, she looks around her, spying “into crowded tenements where fathers, home from peddling, read newspapers, and mothers wash dishes, clothes, and babies in rusty sinks—happy and sad mixed together.” She begins to skip school to wander the city, gazing at it with her curious eyes and heart.
When Dorothea grows up she decides to become a photographer. Her family is surprised—it is not a ladylike profession. She works any job she can find in the photography industry, learning about cameras, darkrooms, negatives, and the printing process. “Alone in the darkroom’s amber glow, she studies the wet printing paper while faces appear in black and white. Dorothea loves faces!”
When she is 23 Dorothea travels west and when all her money is stolen in San Francisco, she stays, gets a job, and starts her own portrait studio. She becomes the sought-after photographer of the richest families in California. She makes money, gains friends, gets married, and starts a family of her own. But she always wonders, “Am I using my eyes and my heart?”
When the stock market crashes and the Great Depression sweeps the country, Dorothea focuses her camera on the desperate and the downtrodden. Her friends don’t understand, but Dorothea sees into these poor people’s hearts. She “knows all about people the world ignores.” For 5 years she goes out into the fields, peers into tents, documents families living in their cars, crouches in the dirt to reveal the stories of the people struggling with the devastation wrought by the Dust Bowl.
Newspapers and magazines publish her pictures. “Her photographs help convince the government to provide parents with work, children with food, and families with safe, clean homes. “The truth, seen with love, becomes Dorothea’s art.” Dorothea’s photographs are still known today. Their subjects continues to help us see others with our hearts.
Six of Dorothea Lange’s most famous and recognizable photographs are reproduced on the last page—still as riveting today as they were in the 1930s. Further information on her life and work is provided as well as sources where her photographs can be viewed, resources for further study, and a timeline of her life.
Barb Rosenstock brings Dorothea Lange’s vision to the page with love, honesty, and understanding in this excellent biography of a woman whose photographs defined the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. Lange’s life-long connection to the poor and often overlooked people of the world is beautifully described and explained in a gentle, compassionate way that will resonate with children. Rosenstock’s language is lyrical with staccato sentences that echo the clicks of Lange’s shutter capturing life’s reality with her eyes and her heart.
Gérard DuBois’s illustrations are arresting and set Dorothea Lange’s story firmly in its historical and emotional landscape. Rendered in acrylic and digital imagery, they feature the muted colors and style of book illustrations from long ago. By placing the images of Dorothea, her family, and her photography subjects against white backgrounds, DuBois emphasizes Lange’s focus on the people she met and faces that inspired her. Distressed textures accentuate the troubled times and the anguish of both Dorothea and her subjects.
Ages 7 – 12
Calkins Creek, 2016 | ISBN 978-1629792088
Discover all the amazing books by Barb Rosenstock on her website!
View a portfolio of art and book illustration by Gérard DuBois on his website!
Here’s a snapshot of Dorothea’s Eyes!
National Photography Month Activity
News Professionals Clothespin Figures
Make one of these clothespin figures that honors the men and women who work to keep the world informed.
- Printable News Professionals Templates
- Peg clothespins, available at craft stores and hardware stores
- Draw a face and hair on the clothespin
- Cut out the clothes you want your journalist or photographer to wear
- Wrap the clothes around the clothespin. The slit in the clothespin should be on the side.
- Tape the clothes together
- Cut out the camera
- Tape one end of a short length of thread to the right top corner of the camera and the other end of the thread to the left corner. Now you can hang the camera around the figure’s neck.
Idea for displaying the figures
- Attach a wire or string to the wall and pin the figure to it
- Pin it to your bulletin board or on the rim of a desk organizer
Picture Book Review