After reading the short biography of Dorothea Lange, when I first saw this photograph I felt hopelessness and just pain. The photograph which is in black and white, is mostly focused on one man, while the rest of the crowd have their backs turned against Lange. You can’t see his face clearly but the man seems to be exhausted and in despair. Since Lange was committed to social justice, she wanted her photographs to result in some kind of social change. The man, who was mostly likely unemployed, is seen to kind of distance himself mentally from the crowd which could show how hard life was at that time for him and many others. Also, the biography states, “Lange became increasingly confident in her ability to use photography to confront the urgent circumstances around her, and others”. (MOMA) I think Lange’s passion helped show the world the struggles people faced, she did not let them be invisible.
The photograph Migrant Mother depicts a mother, visually exhausted, looking in the distance with a tiring facial expression. While her two children are resting, or hiding their faces on her shoulders and a baby in her arms. Their clothes look torn and the woman does not look at the camera either. In terms of compositional principles, you can see the woman’s hand form a straight vertical line while she has her hand on her face, thus making the viewer look at her facial expression. The photograph is only focused on the woman and her kids, there’s no background. Also, the baby’s noticeable much paler than the older kids and the mother, showing how they were out in the sun working. I think Lange wanted to show another social issue that affected many families, poverty. She wanted people to feel for workers like this woman and see what they’re going through.
I think people interpret photographs differently, the photograph of Florence Thompson and her family depicts a time in America that can’t be erased. Lange had only zoomed in to the subjects and nothing else. While for the first photograph, you can see all the other men around the subject, but the old man is the focus of the photograph, while he is visually not with the crowd. When I look at these photographs I can’t compare them to what we’re going through right now during this pandemic. I feel like people had it worse unfortunately back during the Great Depression.
Your observations of Migrant Mother’s composition are clear and nicely detailed.
The assignment asked if the resulting photo and the good it did for the migrant workers was worth the pain it cause Florence Thompson’s family. I am not sure what your response to this is. I am also curious why you think people had it worse in the Great Depression. When you make a strong statement, elaborate.