Family In Barn Analysis

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Could a photo of a family in a house show suffering? Dorothea Lange’s Living Conditions of Workers in Agriculture on whom Depend the Crops of California, Family of Migratory Cotton Pickers, Originally for Oklahoma, Living in Abandoned Cow Barn, Note Bed in Corner, Kern County, California (Family in Barn) offers an unusual view of Dust Bowl migrant workers that were displaced due to agricultural damage. Unlike many of her other photographs, Family in Barn does not depict squatters, or struggling workers, or even the outside conditions that many others were subjected to and it makes the viewer wonder how this family’s dilapidated house and seemingly ordinary life fits into the unseen, harsh outside world. Family in Barn makes the viewer sympathize …show more content…
There seems to be use of artificial lighting as exemplified by the cast shadows of the daughter and of the small table in front of her. Considering that both the mother and daughter are both facing the baby, it makes the viewer realize that the main focus needs to be placed on the conditions that the baby specifically has to experience. Images of children in a traditional still life usually involve joyfulness and wonder, little concern for anything. Although the baby seems to be laughing, when juxtaposed with the cracked floor, precariously hanging pipes, and lack of crib, the audience worries about the child’s development. When viewers act vicariously in this situation, a few questions arise: How much food is there? Where does the baby sleep at night? Who takes care of the baby during the day? A feeling of sympathy is invoked when the audience sees the baby girl surrounded by large iron pipes and the hard dirt floor, as the child does not have much protection from hurting herself. The same can be said about the many other migrants, offered no cushion against the hard place that they are stuck in and the potential to be constantly bashed if not careful. Although the mother is watchful over her child and ensures her safety from the obstacles in the house, the rest of the public does not reciprocate the action. Seeing both the daughter’s grimaced, …show more content…
The limited space and small beds do not seem accommodating for anymore people and the audience is left wondering where the “head of the household” is. One might say that the male figures, husband, brothers, sons, are outside tending to work while the women are staying inside tending to the house and up keeping their belongings. However, as Lange explained, “life of the migrants is not a succession of vacation camping trips. Men, women, and children work.” Considering most of migrant farmers pay depended on the quantity of the crops picked, there would not have been the double standard for the work that needed to be done. But, it seems as if “pioneer life was founded on a double standard,” as most women were excluded from images involving exploring and creating a new life. Lange’s specific photograph with the absence of a male figure is able to invoke sympathy on two fronts. For one, by specifically only having women, a new perspective and dialogue is added to the idea of the “dying western dream.” By acknowledging women, the photo conveys the family’s ability to survive and demonstrate that women had the ability to move out on their own. Regardless of race or gender, many people who were drawn to the West by the promise of a new life were only met with unemployment and indifference. The audience realizes that the subjects in the photo are not only met with the same difficulties, but are

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