(American, 1895–1965 )
Tractored Out, Childress County, Texas
gelatin silver print, 9 1/4" x 13 1/2"
Alice Tweed Tuohy Foundation Purchase
After working in the New York portrait studio
of Arnold Genthe and studying under Clarence White at Columbia College
(1917–18), Dorthea Lange set out to travel and photograph
the world. Stranded without sufficient funds in San Francisco, she
opened her own successful portrait studio and married the established
artist Maynard Dixon. Despite her intention to make fashionable portraits
and”art” photography, her reputation as an artist and
a photojournalist was galvanized by stark images of depression-era
conditions in urban and rural America, which she began producing
independently in 1932. In 1934 she was hired by the economist and
Populist Party leader Paul Taylor to produce images for a report
on migrant workers. That report led Roy Stryker of the U.S. Resettlement
Administration (later renamed the Farm Security Administration, or
FSA) to hire Lange as a photojournalist. With the FSA Lange produced
thousands of photographs in every part of the U.S. except New England.
Her Migrant Mother stands out as the single image that has come to
symbolize the Great Depression for subsequent generations of Americans.
One of Lange’s abiding themes in photographing the American
landscape was the tragedy of being uprooted from one’s home.
The focal point of Tractored Out is an empty tenant shack in Texas,
surrounded up to its doorstep by plowed land.When this photograph
was taken, tractors had recently become subsidized by the government.
With this more efficient means of plowing and harvesting, farm owners
relied less and less on hired tenants to work the land. Along with
the depression, drought and dust storms, tractor subsidies forced
thousands of workers away from rural farms, forever altering the
character and texture of rural life.