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Dorothea Lange Essay

992 words - 4 pages

Dorothea Lange was an American photographer and photojournalist. Her Depression-era work is what she is best known for. She took a series of photographs in 1936 featuring migrant workers and their families in a camp in California. The photos were all taken in black and white. The most famous photo in this series is entitled A Migrant Mother. The photo includes four subjects, a mother and three of her children. The mother is in the middle, holding her baby, and her other children are resting their heads on her shoulders. The mother is looking off in the distance as her children shy away from the camera. They are all wearing tattered clothing and they are dirty. The second photo was taken of the same family, but from a distance. The family is living in a tiny tent, which looks as if it could fall at any minute. There are now five people featured in the photo. They are alone in a large, empty field. Their only belongings are shown bulging out of a couple of suitcases. This photo shows the terrible living conditions of the migrant camps. Although photo number one focuses on the emotions of desperation, photo number two shows this desperation in a more physical sense. Together in these two photographs, Lange is able to reveal the wide ranging effects of The Great Depression.
Both of the photographs were captured in black and white, which is one quality that they share. This lack of color fills both of the pictures with emotion. Black and white photos seem somewhat dull and lifeless, much like The Great Depression. The lack of color in both of the photos shows that the vibrance of life had been sucked out of the people. Color can be used as a mood elevator, and since these photos were taken in black and white, the mood seems depressed. If these photos had been taken in color, they would lose much of their emotion and context. The colors would be distracting to the viewer and take the focus off of the main idea of the photos: desperation. The lack of color in both of the photos helps communicate how desperate the people in them were. Another feature that these photos share are their similar lighting. The photos are not very bright, suggesting a darkness in their lives. The darkness gives an emptiness to the photographs, which in turn gives the view an empty feeling. This darkness produces a cold and depressing feeling, another way the photos show the emotions involved in The Great Depression.
Photo number one gives focuses on emotions because it forces the viewer to feel the emotions that the people in the photo feel. The emotional intensity formed is due to the fact that the picture was taken so close to the family. The family is the only thing featured in photo number one. The photograph mostly focuses on the facial expression of the mother. The viewer...

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