In his 1978 biography of Dorothea Lange, Milton Meltzer appraised Lange's 1936 photography in Utah as nothing more than mundane work done for the benefit of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and not for her own benefit as a photographer. Yet, her work in Utah encapsulates the aspirations, goals, and styles of Lange, and gives insight into her vision as a photographer and representative of the New Deal. Through carefully composed photographs, Lange shows the hardships and hope of life in Utah during the Great Depression.

This thesis investigates Lange's photographs in order to gain a greater understanding of the FSA in Utah during the Great Depression, the nature of FSA photography, and her work in general. To accomplish these tasks, it will be necessary to investigate the photographs and their captions, the work of other FSA photographers, local histories, contemporary sources, and FSA scholarship. Using these sources, this thesis attempts to identify reasons why Lange took the photographs she did.

Using the historical context under which Lange's photographs were made also allows for an examination of Lange's use of visual editing, or, in other words, her artistic manipulation in creating her own vision of the areas she was assigned to photograph. The manner in which she photographed the small rural towns of Consumers, Widtsoe, and Escalante, was not completely indicative of the towns' true nature, or the towns' reality. Rather, the portraits Lange created were personal visions that supported the FSA and her own beliefs and altruistic ideology.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Art



Date Submitted


Document Type





Dorothea Lange, Travel, Utah, United States, Farm Security Administration, Documentary photography, History, 20th century, Depressions, 1929