Dorothea Lange was a natural photographer in the truest sense because she lived, in her words, "a visual life." She could look at something: a line of laundry flapping in the wind, a pair of old, wrinkled, work-worn hands, a bread-line, a crowd of people in a bus station, and find it beautiful. Her eye was a camera lens and her camera--as she put it--an "appendage of the body." During her last illness, as a friend sat near her bed, she suddenly said to him "I've just photographed you." Lange had engaged in this camera-less sort of photography for decades, from the time she was a young girl, and it served as both the foundation of her art education and her first apprenticeship.
Bored and disillusioned with school, she would often cut class and go walking through her neighborhood, the lower-east side of New York. She would make herself as unobtrusive as possible, and look at things and people.