About the film

“The discrepancy between what I was working on in my portrait frames and what was going on in the street was more than I could assimilate. I set myself a big problem. I would go down there…to see if I could grab a hunk of lightning.” Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange Dorothea Lange with her camera.

Explore, through her granddaughter’s eyes, the life story of Dorothea Lange, the photographer who captured the iconic image “Migrant Mother.”  Never-seen-before photos, film footage, interviews, family memories, and journals reveal the artist who challenged America to know itself.

Lange’s enduring images document five turbulent decades of American history, including the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II Japanese American Internment camps, and early environmentalism.  Yet few know the story, struggles, and profound body of work of the woman behind the camera.  Award winning cinematographer Dyanna Taylor, Lange’s granddaughter, directs and narrates this intimate documentary as it explores Lange’s life, probes the nature of her muses—two great men and the camera itself—and her uncompromising vision.  Taylor, who learned to see the visual world at her grandmother’s feet, weaves Lange’s preparations for her career retrospective at New York’s MoMA into a universal story of a woman’s struggle to live a creative life. Read more about the film.

Dorothea Lange:  Grab a Hunk of Lightning premiered on PBS’s American Masters in August 2014.

The DVD is available for purchase for $24.95.




To me BEAUTY appears when one feels deeply.
And ART is a by-product of an act of total attention.
I was a photographer, or beginning to be a photographer—but some phase of photographer I've always been.
I think the visual life, the truly visual life,
must be a great illumination.

The Filmmakers

Dyanna Taylor


Dyanna Taylor is a five-time Emmy award winning Cinematographer and Director of Photography whose prominent career in documentaries and features has also earned her a Peabody Award and the honored Muse Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Vision and Achievement in Cinematography from New York Women in Film and Television.

She has traveled the world lensing and directing films, documentaries, and television specials on social issues and environmental/wildlife concerns. Her extensive credits include work for all of the major network and cable media organizations including HBO, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS and Nat Geo. Recently, she was 2nd Unit Director of Photography for the Disney feature McFarland, released in spring of 2015, Director of Photography for, just released, Sleepless in America for National Geographic and currently DP for Who Will Write our History, in production and filming in Warsaw and Prague.

A Buddhist, lover of animals and the natural world, Taylor also co-leads the “Wisdom of No Technology Media Makers” retreats, and just completed the 4th annual media retreat in the mountains of New Mexico.

Her film: Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, has special meaning for Taylor. She is Lange’s granddaughter, and has been deeply influenced by her grandmother’s sensibility and esthetic. This relationship has given Taylor access to never-before-seen footage, photographs, and journals. Combining Taylor’s memories and personal understanding with thorough scholarship, her film gives the viewer both an understanding and felt sense of the woman whose influential 20th century work revealed America to America.

Roberta Grossman


An award-winning filmmaker with a passion for history and social justice, Roberta Grossman has written and produced more than forty hours of documentary film and television. Her most recent film Hava Nagila (The Movie) was opening or closing night in 40 film festivals!  Her 2008 film, Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh won awards at 13 film festivals, aired on the PBS series Independent Lens and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Grossman was the series producer and co-writer of 500 Nations, the CBS mini-series on Native Americans hosted by Kevin Costner. Grossman’s feature documentary, Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action, premiered in February 2005, and screened and won awards at more than forty festivals worldwide. Other writing and producing credits include In the Footsteps of Jesus, a four-hour special for the History Channel; Hollywood & Power: Women on Top, a special for AMC; The Rich in America: 150 Years of Town and Country Magazine for A&E; The History of Christianity: the First Thousand Years, a four-hour special on A&E; Medal of Honor, a six-part television series produced forU.S. News & World Report; and Heroines of the Hebrew Bible and Judas for the A&E series Mysteries of the Bible. Grossman is currently directing Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force.

Lisa Thomas

Executive Producer

An innovative entrepreneur, activist, philanthropist, film producer and Grammy Award-winning music producer, Lisa Thomas is best known as the co-founder and former CEO of Clif Bar, Inc. From the moment it was introduced to the marketplace in 1992, Clif Bar – an all-natural energy bar—was a success. Over the next several years, Clif Bar, Inc., appeared frequently on the annual Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held companies, and in Working Woman Magazine’s 500 fastest growing companies owned by women. Thomas was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in San Francisco in 1998.  Thomas executive produced the feature documentary Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (2005). She also produced Sacred Ground, a companion album to Homeland that won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Native American Album.

Thomas founded the Katahdin Foundation in 2005, a private, non-profit production company whose mission is to tell compelling stories often ignored by the mainstream media – stories that inform, enlighten, entertain and inspire.  Dedicated to creating high-quality documentary films, educational materials and media projects for museums and other organizations, Katahdin productions tackle issues of social, political and historical interest.

Evan Schiller & Jami Sieber


Electric cellist and vocalist Jami Sieber reaches inside the soul with compositions that are contemporary, timeless, lush, and powerfully evocative.  An innovative musician, Jami’s music moves beyond the surface, inspiring listeners with her honesty, musical prowess, and humanity.  Her life-long commitment to the environment, social justice, and the healing arts is at the heart of her music, reflecting a deep dedication to the arts as a medium of exploration and awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings.

As a child Jami studied classical music but after high school she began exploring folk, rock, improvisational, and world music as an electric cellist. Since launching her solo career Sieber has entered into dynamic collaborations with an extraordinary spectrum of dancers, actors, poets, film directors, visual artists, improvisers, vocalists, and instrumentalists that span the globe.

She has seven self-produced recordings that are available from her website. Each recording is a sonic journey exploring the breadth and magic of the acoustic and electric cellos.

For more info: www.jamisieber.com

Evan Schiller is a Seattle based composer, producer, musician, and recording engineer.  He has been playing and recording music since the messy age of 5, when he used a  cheap dictaphone cassette deck to record the family’s ancient piano – a budding producer and engineer has to start somewhere. Evan has composed music for film, TV commercials, contemporary dance, computer games, and modern theatre.

For further info: www.evanschiller.com

David Leach


David Leach has been editing films for over 35 years, having graduated from the film school at York University, Toronto, in 1974. From 1971 to 1994, he cut commercials, documentaries, and dramatic television series in Canada, working in both 16mm and 35mm. He was supervising editor of TV drama series, and producer/director of several short films. He experienced first hand the shift in post-production technology from film to computer-controlled linear video, then non-linear tape-based editing systems and finally to the digital world of today.

Since moving to New Mexico in 1991 he has edited numerous episodes of television documentary series for TBS, TLC, National Geographic, Discovery, PBS and Hallmark, and has also edited several independent feature-length documentaries.

Denise Rousseau

Associate Producer

After a long career as an environmental consultant in San Francisco, Denise moved on to Santa Fe where she pursued her interest in video editing at the SFCC Film Department.  Since then, she has worked as Script Supervisor for a local short feature; as an on-location Assistant Editor for a feature production; and, over several years, as Assistant Editor/Associate Producer for a locally produced feature documentary about the legendary African filmmaker Ousmane Sembene which premiered at Sundance January 2015.

She is delighted to join such experienced hands as Dyanna Taylor and David Leach in their mission to bring to life the story of Dorothea Lange.

Eileen Torpey

Associate Producer

Eileen Olivieri Torpey, Filmmaker/Artist, M.F.A., has worked in the visual arts for two decades. Her artwork has been exhibited nationally and internationally in diverse venues such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Soap Factory in Minneapolis, the abandoned Sacred Heart Mission Church in Ruidosa, Texas and the Stekkjarflot Nature Park in Reykjavik, Iceland. Ms. Torpey’s directorial debut film, “Ocean Keeper,” premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival and on WNET Thirteen, New York City in 2012. Since its premiere, “Ocean Keeper” has broadcast on over 300 PBS stations across the country.

Her current productions include: co-producing “Just One Drop” an international film about homeopathy; directing “Fire Seeking Fire”, an intermedia art installation; curating “DRIFT Art Project”, a nomadic group art exhibition. Ms. Torpey is a two-time recipient of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation artist residency award, a grantee of the New Visions Film Award in New Mexico and a recipient of a U.S. Embassy Grant. She received her M.F.A. at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University. Presently she works as a video producer/director and consultant for Libero Canto Singing, L.L.C. and divides her time between New York City and Santa Fe. She is the founder/director of her production company Pure Newt LLC.

Elizabeth Partridge


Elizabeth Partridge grew up in Berkeley, California.  When her father, Rondal Partridge, decided at seventeen to become a photographer, his mother, Imogen Cunningham, sent him to work with her family friend, Dorothea Lange. Elizabeth became part of this extended, Lange-Partridge intermingled family. Elizabeth was the first student to graduate from the University of California with a degree in Women’s Studies, and went on to study traditional Chinese medicine in the United Kingdom. An Oriental Medical Doctor and acupuncturist for more than twenty years, she closed her practice in 2001 to write full-time. The author of more than a dozen books, Elizabeth has received many honors, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and National Book Award Finalist. She still lives in Berkeley in a large, ramshackle house with her husband, father, son and his girlfriend, as well as numerous animals.

Allyson Feeney

Archivist and Researcher

Allyson Feeney works as a freelance archivist and researcher on a number of different art related projects. After receiving her Master’s degree in Museum Studies from New York University, Allyson moved around the United States working in a number of art institutions including the Drawing Center in New York City, the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. She joined the Dorothea Lange: Grab A Hunk of Lightning team in May of 2012 as the archivist and researcher in charge of managing all the still image files and stock footage seen in the documentary.