Like Esther Bubley, Dorothea Lange
(1895-1965) documented the change on the homefront, especially among
ethnic groups and workers uprooted by the war. Three months after
Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the relocation of
Japanese-Americans into armed camps in the West. Soon after, the War
Relocation Authority hired Lange to photograph Japanese
neighborhoods, processing centers, and camp facilities.
Lange's earlier work documenting displaced farm families and
migrant workers during the Great Depression did not prepare her for
the disturbing racial and civil rights issues raised by the Japanese
internment. Lange quickly found herself at odds with her employer
and her subjects' persecutors, the United States government.
To capture the spirit of the camps, Lange created images that
frequently juxtapose signs of human courage and dignity with
physical evidence of the indignities of incarceration. Not
surprisingly, many of Lange's photographs were censored by the
federal government, itself conflicted by the existence of the camps.
The true impact of Lange's work was not felt until 1972, when the
Whitney Museum incorporated twenty-seven of her photographs into
Executive Order 9066, an exhibit about the Japanese internment. New
York Times critic A.D. Coleman called Lange's photographs "documents
of such a high order that they convey the feelings of the victims as
well as the facts of the crime."