Tuesday, 8 March 2016

"Texas tenant farmer in Marysville, California" by Dorothea Lange

This photograph by Dorothea Lange, from 1935, depicts a family; a mother, father, three young children and a baby. The first thing which caught my eye in this photograph was the presence of a full family, as the majority of images which we looked at during the lecture showed single parents with children, or children as the only subjects. By showing a family with two parents, the viewer can identify the different gender roles at play in the picture, with the mother holding the infant child, a feminine image, and the father sitting, a more relaxed position, interacting with his toddler son.
A second aspect of the photograph which piqued my interest was the caption:

"Texas tenant farmer in Marysville, California, migrant camp during the peach season. 1927 made seven thousand dollars in cotton. 1928 broke even. 1929 went in the hole. 1930 still deeper. 1931 lost everything. 1932 hit the road. 1935, fruit tramp in California"

This is an incredibly interesting caption, compared to most which simply described the subjects and date of the photograph. Here, however, we learn about the past 7 years of this family's life, going from a successful cotton farm business, to losing everything as a result of the Depression, and having to start over. 

This can be linked with the idea of the 'American Dream', as it suggests that even if the Dream of wealth and success is fulfilled, even on a smaller scale, like breaking even on your family's cotton farm, this doesn't guarantee wealth and success for the rest of your life. The Depression affected everyone, more so farms, and this photo's caption encapsulates how the economic downfall completely ruined this Texan family's lives, and business, forcing them to complete relocate and restart. 

In addition to this caption evoking sympathy for the family, the children present serve to further this emotive tactic, guiding the viewer towards a sympathetic viewpoint of the family. As learned in the lecture, the parent's of the children in the photographs often put their children's appearance first, ensuring the children were hygienic and well dressed, before tending to themselves. This may be suggested in that the children in this photograph have clean faces, compared to their father's unshaven face. Despite this, the poverty of the situation is echoed in the lack of shoes on the children's feet.

To conclude, I believe that this photograph significantly depicts how the Depression greatly affected farming families at the time, and how poverty-stricken they remained years later. 

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