Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was a truly inspirational and intrepid photographer. She started her own portrait studio in San Francisco at the age of 24. Not too many women had their own businesses in the early 20th century. But although that was unusual, that was far from remarkable.

She developed an ability to quickly relate to people, and to make them feel at ease. You can see it in her photographs. They are strangers, or of people she barely knew, yet she captures them with such frank emotion and expression that you could almost be a fly on the wall. But in the 1930’s, she was working with a 4×5 view camera, hardly a discrete instrument and certainly not suited to point-and-shoot, grab-and-go snapshots.

Her romance and marriage to Paul Taylor, a tireless advocate of the middle class, local farmers, and water rights, was certainly a catalyst to her activism. The two of them started working together on assignment: he wrote while she photographed. Their complementary skills were synergistic, and each energized the other.

This PBS film was directed by Dorothea Lange’s granddaughter Dyanna Taylor, and excellent artist in her own right: she’s won five Emmy awards.

Dorothea Lange: Grab A Hunk of Lightning