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Toward Los Angeles, California

Toward Los Angeles, California
A man with a suitcase and, presumably, a woman with a bedroll over her shoulder walk with their backs to the camera along a dirt road, juxtaposed ironically with a Southern Pacific billboard that features a man in a suit reclining in a luxurious passenger car seat, aboard a train that Lange says was headed to Los Angeles. The billboard text reads, "Next Time Try the Train / Relax." Between the two figures and in the left distance there appears to be a town, suggesting that they were headed to it. Tire tracks hint that Lange's car made them, since the couple walks on either side of one of the tracks. The picture was taken in March 1937. Photographs of the Depression Era by Dorothea Lange have become iconic for their social comment and content. But her pictures do not always withstand historical scrutiny, despite their beauty of composition and successful commentary. Why are their clothes neat, their shoes showing little wear? Were her two subjects actually on the road for days? Had they perhaps left the train a few minutes ago? Could they have been headed home to the little town in the distance? Does the intent of the picture match the facts?
Source Oakland Museum of California
Coverage Spatial, California; Temporal, March 1937
Rights Oakland Museum of California
Date Created 1937
Resource Type
Extent Not available
Depicted Railroad
Location California, near Los Angeles
Creator Description Dorothea Lange is recognized as a highly influential photographer of the Depression Era and World War II, and for her work at “Life” magazine. Born in New Jersey, she contracted polio when she was young and had a lifelong limp. She said that limp led her to empathize with the nation’s unfortunates. She studied photography at Columbia University in 1917-18, moved to California, and worked as a portrait photographer until 1932, when she photographed a bread line in San Francisco and launched her career as a social-commentary photographer, especially for the Farm Security Administration.
Collection © the Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California, Gift of Paul S. Taylor
Image ID A67.137.94833
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