Observing Los Angeles

Dorothea Lange photos of LA poverty in 1936

dorothea-lange-la-mexican-quarter.jpgBefore downtown LA's old Mexican and Chinese enclaves north and east of the Plaza were razed in the 1930s to make way for Union Station, Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange shot pictures there for the federal government. This was in February of 1936. Lange is known more for her photographs of Dust Bowl refugees in California, most notably for her portrait a month later of migrant mother Florence Owens Thompson in Nipomo, Calif. These Los Angeles images are less known but of historical value.

They are included among about 1,300 photographs from the Los Angeles area collected in a breathtaking new online presentation of more than 170,000 photographs made from 1935 to 1945 for the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information and housed by the Library of Congress. A Yale University project called Photogrammar has put them all online, with an interactive map that lets you click on any county in the U.S. for the images from there.

The captions for Lange's photos from February 1936 say "Mexican quarter of Los Angeles. One quarter mile from City Hall. Area has been condemned and will be torn down shortly to make space for the new Union Railroad station. Average rental is eight dollars. Some houses have plumbing."




The collection of Lange photos also includes images of federal subsistence homesteads in San Fernando and El Monte.

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