Dorothea Lange: The Person and the Artist.
When Dorothea Lange was born in 1895 Hoboken, New Jersey there was no way of knowing that she would one day become one of the great American photographers. She was born to second generation German immigrant parents, the first child of Henry and Joanna Nutzhorn.# Her father was a lawyer, her mother a gentle, beautiful women who sang amateur recitals. Two tragedies tested and helped to shape her in her childhood. The first was when she was seven years old and was stricken with polio. Her right leg from the knee down was impaired and as such she was called " limpy" by the other children and would for the remainder of her life be lame. #This handicap haunted her; she accepted but hated it to the end of her life. At sixty-five she described its significance:.
" No one who hasn't lived a life of a semi-cripple knows how much that means. I think it was perhaps the most important thing that happened to me. It formed me, guided me. instructed me, helped me. and humiliated me. All those at once. I've never gotten over it and I am aware of the force and the power of it."#.
In Dorothea from childhood and through life, there was a constant effort to make a statement to herself and to others that an impaired gait insistently does not mean a lagging, curbed life.#.
When Dorothea was twelve a second tragedy occurred in her life: the departure of her father, who walked out, never to return. She never understood why, and could never talk about what happened. It was her independent nature to close doors of past events and deny the influence of certain events and individuals. After the divorce both herself and her mother adopted her mothers maiden name, Lange. # Dorothea kept this secret so well that it was not until after her death that her own husband and children learned her birth name was Nutzhorn. Dorothea's mother was left with no money and two small children.