White Angel Bread Line

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2015-06-26 10:35:20

White Angel Bread Line is a celebrated photograph taken by the American photojournalist Dorothea Lange in 1933.

About the photograph

The photograph depicts a queue at a soup kitchen set up by San Francisco widow Louis Jordan during the Great Depression. Jordan’s efforts to feed the hungry and needy led her to be named the ‘White Angel’, and the image shows a man turning away from the surging crowd.

Lange was relatively unknown at the time, and it was not until the image was reprinted in the 1935 U. S. Camera annual that it attracted national attention. Her work documenting the devastating effects of the Depression led to her employment by the federal Resettlement Administration, and her images were distributed freely to newspapers across the United States in an attempt to highlight the plight of millions of Americans.

One of her earliest admirers was the celebrated American photographer Ansel Adams, with whom she remained friends throughout her life. He was influential in helping to popularise her work, and in 1962 wrote her a letter stating:

‘You happen to be one of the very few who has brought enough deeply felt human emotion into your work to make it bearable for me. I wish you would try and think of yourself as a fine artist—which you are. That is a damn sight more important to the world than being merely an extension of a sociological movement.’

Notable sales

One of the earliest prints made of the photograph was given by Lange herself to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in 1936. This print was sold during a Sotheby’s auction in New York in October 2005 for a price of $822,400, making it one of the most expensive photographs ever sold at auction.

A day earlier at the same auction a print dated 1934 and printed by Ansel Adams from the original negative was sold for a price of $90,000.

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