Sheldon Museum of Art Main Content


Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California

  • Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California.

Selected by Pablo Morales
Head Coach, Women’s Swimming

There is a quality to this photo that grabs my attention and makes it difficult for me to look away. It instantly evokes feelings of concern for those experiencing desperation, poverty, and vulnerability. We know from the title that it depicts a migrant family during the Great Depression. The starkness of the image, its subject matter, and the emotion it draws out create a timeless depiction of those forced—either by conflict or by economic conditions— to leave the stability and security of their homes in order to survive. The photo could easily portray a migrant worker, the poor and homeless in our cities, or refugees fleeing their homelands today. 

The migrant mother’s face commands the central focus with features that are simultaneously handsome and haggard, strong and soft. Her gaze is resolute, but filled with worry. She is framed by what must be the source of her concern, her children, whose sleeping bodies fold into the curves of hers so closely that we almost miss the muddied face of an infant tucked under one of its siblings. The weight the woman carries is both real and figurative. She is quite literally her family’s home.

As a father, this image hits me at an emotional level, summoning the love and worry I have for my own children, while representing the precious innocence of children who are often the most vulnerable and marginalized in today’s world.