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Lange Picture Paper

848 words - 4 pages

The mass media carries with it unparalleled opportunities to impart information, but also opportunities to deceive the public, by misrepresenting an event. While usually thought of as falsifying or stretching facts and figures, manipulation can just as easily be done in the use of photography and images. These manipulations may be even more serious – and subtle – than written manipulations, since they may not be discovered for years, if ever, and can have an indelible and lasting impact on the viewer, as it is often said, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. One of the most significant images of Twentieth Century America was the photograph of a migrant mother holding her child. The photograph was taken during the Great Depression by photographer Dorothea Lange, and has remained an enduring symbol of the hardship and struggle faced by many families during the Depression Era. This image was also an example of the manipulation of photography, however, for it used two major forms of manipulation that remain a problem in journalistic photography.
First, the scene in the image was manipulated through stage-managing, a common practice in photojournalism. While the image of the migrant mother, Florence Thompson, appears to the viewer to be a genuine and unprompted look at the hardship and deprivation of a dejected migrant woman. This, of course, was the reality of Ms. Thompson’s personal situation at the time. But the scene itself was micromanaged to appear in a lucid and vivid form in the image, including editing Ms. Thompson’s older children from the image to create the more poignant scene of a mother holding a small child and using a pose in which the woman is looking out into the distance, with the two children told to look away, a camera pose that created a dramatic image, but was likely an overly dramatized portrayal that was exploiting a truly tragic situation. Even more overt forms of image manipulation are evident; the thumb of 14-year-old Viola, one of Ms. Thompson’s children, that was holding the tent flap is removed, while Ruby’s wool cap is removed, displaying greater poverty and deprivation.
Secondly, the spirit that the image was created in was manipulative. While conveying the hardship of the Depression and touching the hearts and minds of millions of Americans and people around the world, Ms. Lange offered no charity relief to the impoverished family that she used in her image. In fact, there is no evidence to believe that Ms. Thompson and her children wanted to be photographed. This photograph was taken somewhat against the consent of this...

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