Dorothea Lange
White Angel Breadline, San Francisco, 1933

Although Dorothea Lange is best known for the iconic Depression-era photographs she made under the auspices of the Farm Security Administration, this picture is one of her first attempts at street photography, taken well before she began working for the government. It records a hungry person at the White Angel Jungle, a soup kitchen near Lange’s San Francisco studio. Lois Jordan, the "white angel," was a working-class widow of limited resources who relied only on unsolicited donations to run the breadline. Jordan’s compassionate and practical response to human suffering likely contributed to Lange’s decision to leave her portrait studio practice and begin using her camera as a tool for social change.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
White Angel Breadline, San Francisco
Artist name
Dorothea Lange
Date created
gelatin silver print
12 1/4 in. × 10 1/8 in. (31.12 cm × 25.72 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
The Henry Swift Collection, gift of Florence Alston Swift
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland, gift of Paul S. Taylor
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

The artist on photographing in San Francisco

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In this archival recording made near the end of her life, Dorothea Lange recalls photographing in San Francisco, at the height the Great Depression. Among these photos was White Angel Breadline, San Francisco, one of her most iconic images. 



I had made some photographs of the state of people, in an area of San Francisco, which revealed how deep that depression was.  


It was at that time beginning to cut very deep. This is a long process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Life, for people, begins to crumble on the edges, you know, they don’t realize. But this particular section was not far from the place where my studio was. I had done some photographs of this. And one of them is one of my most famed photographs. I made that on the first day. 


I made the old man with the tin cup. It was the first, but that was life. Had I struggled along for months and months with this material. But I saw something, and I encompassed it, and I had it.  

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