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Lois Houle

Lois Houle in 1939 and 1979

For many photography lovers, this image by Dorothea Lange seems to speak volumes about a child's desperation and a mother's concern. At the time, Lois's family was "on relief" – the term for welfare at the time – and her Dad had borrowed money from the Farm Security Administration. That's why Dorothea Lange was shooting photographs of her and why Dorothea actually wrote down the family name in her notebook, one of the few times she actually recorded a name. To see and hear Lois with portions of her oral history interview, click here or on the pictures above.

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Lois didn't remember the photograph being taken, let alone why she might have felt sad. She remembered being close to her mother. But she also remembered how terrible the dust storms in Colorado were. She remembered how hard it was to make a living. That was why they left the plains for Washington. She loved Washington and never wanted to move back.

I like the sense of generational movement in my photograph. Lois's mother had passed on by 1979, but her daughter, Jody, had just had her own son.

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