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Dorthea Lange
(American, 1895–1965 )
Tractored Out, Childress County, Texas
1938
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.

 
 
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