Migrant Mother


Migrant Mother, Nipomo Valley

Dorothea Lange 1935

Gelatin Silver Print

The photograph that has become known as “Migrant Mother” is one of a series of photographs that Dorothea Lange made of Florence Owens Thompson and her children in February or March of 1936 in Nipomo, California. In this photograph the mother cradles a baby in her lap while a pair of young children cling to both sides, their faces turned away from the camera. Although the woman faces Lange’s camera her eyes are averted to look at a point beyond. Her face is gaunt and lined, reflecting the hardship she faces, but her right arm and hand symbolize her inner strength. All three are poorly dressed with simple and dustry clothings. The facial expression of the mother is the focus of the photo which conveys her anxiety and worry. Wrinkles on the mother’s face is also very clearly shown and the deep frown on her face attracts the attention of the viewer, as it forms great contrast with her lighter colored face. Her eyes gives the feeling of hollowness and also shows that the woman is thin and tired, eyes sinking into the socket.

The woman, besides her simple dressing, seems that she did not care much about her appearance even in front of the camera. She had her shirt loose almost showing her chest, and worn out threads at the end of her torn sleaves. That probably shows that she has to worry about many other more crucial issues than her appearance.

The children, althougth facing away, seems to be very tired as both are lying on their mother’s shoulders and seems as if they were asleep. This conveys the close relationship between the mother and children, also showing the responsibility and role of a mother. All above draws sympathy and respect to the mother, for her bad living condition, and her motherly love for her children.

The setting of the photograph is not clearly shown as the photo is mainly focused on the subject. However, from the lighting, dull, dark colors and lines on the wall, we can almost interpret that the place must be somewhere abandoned, or in bad condition. Also, the fact that the family stayed so closely together shows that the place is a small one.


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