Below you will find the speech I made during the presentation for Assignment 2.
You can also find the slideshow presentation here.
Text read along the EXPLOITATION Slide #2
Man has exploited nature and his fellow humans on earth from day one. The instances through history are infinite. As human evolved, so did exploitation, though more people are aware of its existence today.
A key point on being aware of is knowledge, education, information and information, which has dramatically increased since the Great Depression.
The Great Depression was a severe economic depression, spanned to almost every country, in the decades preceding World War II. It started in 1929 and lasted until the ‘40s.
While researching on the theme and the practitioners I established links between them and their work. They all worked at around the same decades and produced work that mostly depicted the life in the United States within the Great Depression.
Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn all worked for a period of time for the Farm Security Administration photography program. They were tasked to document the life of farmers of the American south in a decaying era for the United States.
This program was not their only body of work during the Great Depression. They all showed through their photographs and art the current social state. Their work can be viewed as social documentation. After all these practitioners are pioneers of documentary photography.
Text read along the FARM SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Slide #6
I chose not to show other bodies of work of my given practitioners, other than the Farm Security Administration photography program. That is because in my opinion, it was this project that really shows signs of exploitation through these photographs.
Initially created as the Resettlement Administration (RA) in 1935 as part of the “New Deal” in the United States, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was an effort during the Depression to combat American rural poverty.
One of the activities performed was the buying out of small farms that were not economically viable in which groups of farmers would live together under the guidance of government experts and work in a common area.
The RA and FSA are well known for the influence of their photography program. Photographers and writers were hired to report and document the plight of poor farmers. The project is most responsible for creating the image of the Depression in the United States.
Text read along WALKER EVANS Slide #11
He mostly used throughout his projects a large format 8×10” camera. He took up projects of photographing for the illustration of books in the States as well as in Cuba. In one of his projects he hid a camera in his coat and took pictures of people in the underground. That was his first body of work. He was staff writer for times magazine and editor at Fortune as well as a professor of photography at Yale University, School of Art and Design. His most famous project is the Farm Security Administration program. In the following slides you will see photographs of the families of Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle from Hale County, Alabama.
Text read along DOROTHEA LANGE Slide #22
Dorothea Lange studied photography at Columbia University. Her work draw attention from the public while she was giving her photographs for free at newspapers. Her images became icons of the era. Except her work at the Farm Security Administration, she followed the lives of Japanese – Americans who were forced to evacuate Pearl Harbor after the World War II attack. Her images were so critical that the army impounded them. Lange is the co-founder of Aperture magazine.
Text read along BEN SHAHN Slide #31
Ben Shahn saw things from a different angle as he was a painter, an illustrator and a graphic artist. He started off as a lithographer, which is something, that clearly influenced his later works. He travelled in Africa and Europe which led him to pursuit the European modern art. He later outgrew it and took the path towards a more realistic style. He was introduced to the Farm Security Administration program by Walker Evans. Other bodies of work include making murals in cities, and the Office of War Information (OWI) where he didn’t have much luck as his pieces lacked the preferred patriotism of the day.
Looking back at these bodies of work, at the biography of each one and certainly the state of society at that time, certainly some people were inclined to show the truth. I did not find explicit information on the intentions of my given practitioners, but their work speaks out clearly.
In my understanding their work depicts not just the life of farmers in the American South but how these people lived. How they were forced to become farmers because of no other option.
The United States government never let these people buy the land as opposed to what they advertised. They worked for the government in order to survive. In fact if it weren’t for them who would have fed the American army overseas…
- Walker Evans, 1979
- Unclassified, a Walker Evans anthology, 2000
- Photographs for the Farm Security Administration, 1935-1938
- Dorothea Lange, 1994
- Dorothea Lange and the documentary tradition, 1980
Assignment 2: Presentation
Photography BA (Year 1)
8th November 2011