Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning


  • Migrant Mother: Dorothea Lange

    Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother photograph, taken during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, is highlighted in this video segment from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. It uncovers Lange’s thoughts and processes around shooting this image, provides cultural and historical context, and illustrates the longevity of its impact.

    Grades: 7-12
  • The Great Depression: Creating Narrative through Photography

    This video segment from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning provides a documentary photographer’s perspective of the severe economic despair and difficult living conditions that characterized the Great Depression. It also explores Lange’s career transition from portrait to documentary photographer, one she felt compelled to make as she witnessed the social experience of the Great Depression from her San Francisco studio window. Lange speaks about the processes, instincts, and feelings she experienced in her new role as a documentary photographer.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Documenting the Dust Bowl

    The Dust Bowl and resulting western migration that occurred in the 1930s is explored in this video segment from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. The agricultural devastation and ensuing migration is documented through the eyes and photographs of documentary photographer Dorothea Lange as she captures the influx on film. The segment discusses the causes and consequences of the Dust Bowl and contrasts the migrant farmers’ hopes of finding an “American Dream” in California with the distraught reality of farm life on the west coast during this time.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Picturing Japanese American Internment: Dorothea Lange

    This media gallery explores the government-issued Japanese American internment that occurred during World War II using two videos from the American Masters film Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning. Dorothea Lange, a documentary photographer hired by the government, captures the plight of internees forced to leave their lives and homes behind. Learn about Lange’s struggle to document the reality of internment and the censorship she faced for not doing the exact job she was hired to do. The related materials draw on the videos and focus mainly on visual literacy (the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in images) as it relates to Japanese internment.

    Grades: 7-12

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