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Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon

Reviewed by L. Bennett

Born in 1895, Dorothea's life was driven by ambition, social consciousness, and physical struggles. She was a victim of polio long before the outbreak that spawned vaccinations decades later, and was not motivated by the need to be exclusively a wife and mother -- although she was both. Dorothea strove to document the world around her, and although her photos were frequently beautiful works of art she saw her pictures as records of humanity. When she died of cancer in 1965 she had photographed farm workers, Dust Bowl refugees, industrial agriculture, social inequities, war, and political foibles. She was a role model for young photographers in general and for women in particular. Her marriages included the artist Maynard Dixon and Paul Taylor, an activist for farm worker equality. This biography, written by Linda Gordon, follows Dorothea's adventures, health crises, family entanglements, and friendships in some detail, and includes quite a lot of material about her two husbands and their accomplishments. The book is illustrated with numerous photos by and of Dorothea, many of which you will probably recognize. Although I got bogged down in places by detail, it was overall a good read and a fine examination of Dorothea Lange's push to go beyond the limits.

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