Migrant Madonna

Dorothea Lange, LC-USF34–009098

Mother�s Day

I thought I might post some images today of one of the world�s most famous mothers. Florence Thompson, on the far right of this image, holds that distinction as the �Migrant Madonna�

Dorothea Lange, LC-USF34-009058-C

But that one isn�t the only image from the series:



In 1978 there was a small news story on a historical curiosity: the real-live person who was photographed by Dorothea Lange in 1936 in what became the world�s most reproduced photograph. Florence Thompson, seventy-five a Cherokee living in a trailer in Modesto, California, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, �That�s my picture hanging all over the world, and I can�t get a penny out of it.� She said she was proud to be its subject but asked, �What good�s it doing me?� She has tried unsuccessfully to get the photo suppressed. About it, Roy Stryker, genius of the photo section of the Farm Security Administration, for which Lange was working, said in 1972: �When Dorothea took that picture, that was the ultimate. She never surpassed it. To me it was the picture of Farm Security . . .So many times I�ve asked myself what is she thinking? She has all the suffering of mankind in her but all of the perseverance too. . . . You can see anything you want in her. She is immortal.� In 1979, a United Press International story about Mrs. Thompson said she gets $331.60 a month from Social Security and $44.40 for medical expenses. She is of interest solely because she is an incongruity, a photograph that has aged; of interest solely because she is a postscript to an acknowledged work of art. ( 315)

Martha Rosler, �In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)� from The Contest of Meaning : Critical Histories of Photography