Exercise: Analysing social documentary

Walker Evans


This image from Walker Evans really stood out to me because the child looks so innocent sitting on a small chair wearing clothes that looks slightly too big for them. The high angle really looks like a snap shot rather than the photographer thinking about his composition but this angle really looks like the child is really innocent amongst the ruin on their home, you can tell the home is in ruin with the lifted up floorboard on the top left hand side and the odd metal objects left lying around such as the bucket.

I don’t think this picture was taken with consent of the model but I would have thought that there would have been consent from the mother or father of the child, but this was taken in a time where laws on photographing children were more relaxed. I can see a style of the photographer in this image in the way that the story of the subject isn’t really obvious to the viewer compared to photographers such as Dorothea Lange.

I do think that this photograph was successful in the fact that you can see something beautiful and innocent amongst the deprivation and suffering, I think that this image is an example of social documentary and for the image to be photo journalism it would have to tell a particular story and with this image it is not obvious what the story is when you first look at it without it having text to accompany it.

Dorothea Lange:

1936 --- Florence Owens Thompson, 32, a poverty-stricken migrant mother with three young children, gazes off into the distance. This photograph, commissioned by the FSA, came to symbolize the Great Depression for many Americans. --- Image by © CORBIS

This image of the Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange really stands out to me because you can see so much in the image and it is just so simple but effective. This image shows a mother and two of her children sitting in a tent and the children are after comfort from their mother who looks like she is struggling mentally and physically to survive these tough conditions.

Lange was paid to get this type of picture but I think that Lange really connected with her subject in such a way that the subject seems to open up through the picture. I think that this photograph was taken with consent as in her quote from ‘Popular photography’ she said “Seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.”

I think there is a style of the photographer in this picture as you can really see a connection in the photograph between the subject and the photographer and this seems to be a regular occurrence in all of Lange’s work. I do think that this photograph is successful as it really makes you stop and think about the family and you can see their pain and suffering quite clearly.

I think that this picture is an example of photojournalism as this picture really tells a story of the family and the way that migrants were living in at the time that these photographs were taken.



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