The Migrant Mother Revisited

Cropped version of Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange

We are familiar with Dorothea Lange’s photo of the “Migrant Mother.” It was taken in 1936 and became the iconic photograph of the Great Depression.

Lange actually took six shots at the time and one of those was the flawed composition of the mother breastfeeding her baby. Michael Stones, a professor and active photographer in Canada, examines this photo in his article “The Other Migrant Mother,” and says it is a truer likeness of Florence Owen Thompson as she was then and in her future: a woman facing up to hardship, doing it by herself for her family.

But because the photo was flawed compositionally – the camera was tilted a bit too far down when the photo was taken – Stones applied a few Photoshop tricks to correct the composition but not radically alter its content.

Photograph #4 by Lange as enhanced by Michael Stones

Stones says his repaired version, above, depicts a truth about motherhood as old as humanity. (I say the original photo, even without repairs or enhancement, depicts a madonna in poverty but in quiet dignity.)


Published by Chris Malinao

Chris teaches Lightroom as workflow software to photography students at the FPPF, Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation. He also teaches smartphone photography.