The Icon: Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother

  • Sieglinde Lemke


Chapter Three closely examines the most famous visual plea to end poverty. Dorothea Lange’s black-and-white portrait depicting a precarious farmworker during the Great Depression, Migrant Mother, has had a sustained impact on the American consciousness, spurning a host of stories on its production, distribution, and reception. Lemke offers the most comprehensive reading of this particular icon of destitution to date. She discusses the often-neglected visual ambiguity that gives Lange’s photo a titillating aura, while at the same time thwarting a voyeuristic gaze. Unleashing a precarious mode of looking, this famous portrait of a working-poor American becomes textually precarious, which makes it a prototype of precarious representations in contemporary documentary photography.


Aesthetic Experience Dust Bowl Migrant Mother Aesthetic Pleasure Precarious Life 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sieglinde Lemke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of FreiburgFreiburgGermany

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