The power of photography

Discussion Forum 2: The Power of Photography Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936Dorothea Lange’s unforgettable photograph of a destitute mother and her children was initially one of the hundreds of images taken by the photographer to document the plight of migrant workers in California. Lange never intended, nor could she have foreseen, that an image of just one family would become a national icon, a searing account of the poverty and vulnerability of millions of Americans during the Great Depression.

Truly, this was an instance of a picture being worth a thousand words. Discuss the unique qualities of the photographic medium in being able to transform what was at first an intimate and private image of four people into a timeless national symbol of a time and place in our history.  Why has photography become synonymous with the documentation of the world around us, and what are the medium’s unique attributes both in engaging the viewer’s attention and in highlighting topical social issues.

In writing your commentaries, it is acceptable to describe the particular plight of Florence Thompson’s family in the midst of the Great Depression, but the thrust of your remarks should be directed towards a more general discussion of the role of photography (or other similar imaging media) in chronicling the modern world and raising awareness of social conditions.

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