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White Angel Breadline, San Francisco
Gelatin silver print
11 x 13 7/8
J. Paul Getty Museum
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland [Getty: 2000.43.1]
Notes - Alan Griffiths (15 February 2012)
The photograph was taken at the White Angel Jungle, a soup kitchen for San Francisco's jobless during the Depression. From June 1931 until September 1933 Lois Jordan, a wealthy white woman known as the "White Angel", supported the soup kitchen at Abe Reuff's lot, bounded by the Embarcadero and Battery, between Filbert and Greenwich, through charitable donations. There is a small historical marker with photographs on the site near Levi's Plaza Park at 1160 Battery St. next to The Embarcadero road at the end of Pier 23 in San Francisco.
Widely reproduced it has become one of the iconic photographs of economic hardship and was used as the cover photograph for Irving Bernstein A Caring Society: The New Deal, the Worker, and the Great Depression (Houghton Mifflin, 1985).
There is an a story that this photograph was tacked on the wall up in the studio of Dorothea Lange and on her darkroom door there was a quotation by Francis Bacon:
The contemplation of things as they are without error or confusion without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.
Milton Meltzer "Dorothea Lange: A Photographer's Life" (Syracuse University Press, 2000) p.286
Lois Jordan The work of the White Angel Jungle of San Francisco waterfront (Mother Lois Jordan Book Co., 1935)