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Black Maria, Oakland, from the series "Public Defender"

A work made of gelatin silver print.

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.


1957, printed 1965


Dorothea Lange (American, 1895–1965)
Printed under the artist’s supervision by Irwin Welcher

About this artwork

Known for her iconic images of the Great Depression, documentary photographer Dorothea Lange cultivated a photographic approach that was at once ruthless and empathetic. Between 1955 and 1957, she worked on a photo essay, Public Defender, which documented legal challenges for indigents accused at the Alameda County Courthouse, in downtown Oakland, California. Lange followed 36-year-old public defender Martin N. Pulich as he worked in his office, advocated in the courtroom, and visited clients in jail cells. Originally intended for Life magazine, the series was instead published as an uncredited four-page spread in a Filipino newspaper. In January 1966, just months after Lange’s death, a retrospective exhibition was mounted at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, featuring this stark image of a police van (called a “Black Maria”) along with three other photographs from Public Defender.


Currently Off View


Photography and Media


Dorothea Lange


Black Maria, Oakland, from the series "Public Defender"


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1957


Gelatin silver print


39.3 × 37 cm (15 1/2 × 14 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Photography Associates Fund

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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