American Experience Being Constructed in Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

The father's naked chest underlines his raw, unprotected state and the lack of protection he can give his children.

A FSA portrait which resonates with the Grannan photograph can be found in the image of a work entitled Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California, 1936. The nearly emaciated woman cradles her chin in her face, looking slightly to the left of the photographer, just like the man in the Grannan photograph. Two of the mother's children bury their heads in each of her shoulders, but she looks away from them, as if she is too tired to give them any love. If it were not for the title of the photograph, it would be difficult to believe that she was their mother, given that she has no maternal tenderness in her eyes. The genders of the children are not even visible from the photograph because they are concealed by her face and shoulders. It is as if there is nothing she can do but turn away and rest her head in her hands.

What is so striking in the comparison of these photographs is the extent to which gender seems to be irrelevant for both parents: because of the economic circumstances which the family finds itself, the parents are unable to extend either fatherly protection or maternal tenderness to the children. The children have become faceless and anonymous, as if they have no future. The skimpy bathing suit of the girl and her pinched, weeping eyes seems to be a particularly ominous harbinger for the girl in the contemporary photograph; in the FSA photograph, the utterly concealed, 'buried' children seem to have lost all identifying characteristics, and simply symbolize need and despair. Although it would be impossible to confuse the two photographs, the similarity of expression in the faces of the subjects and the staging of the photographers…

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The child and her father stare at something slightly to the left of the gazer. It is as if both of them are looking at their futures, and it is bleak. The girl appears almost angelic, with soft blonde hair and tear-filled china blue eyes, but she wears an inappropriately sexual black bikini top with polka dots. Along with the father's cigarettes, the image suggests a young girl forced to grow up before her time because her father is unable to parent her. The father's naked chest underlines his raw, unprotected state and the lack of protection he can give his children.

A FSA portrait which resonates with the Grannan photograph can be found in the image of a work entitled Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California, 1936. The nearly emaciated woman cradles her chin in her face, looking slightly to the left of the photographer, just like the man in the Grannan photograph. Two of the mother's children bury their heads in each of her shoulders, but she looks away from them, as if she is too tired to give them any love. If it were not for the title of the photograph, it would be difficult to believe that she was their mother, given that she has no maternal tenderness in her eyes. The genders of the children are not even visible from the photograph because they are concealed by her face and shoulders. It is as if there is nothing she can do but turn away and rest her head in her hands.

What is so striking in the comparison of these photographs is the extent to which gender seems to be irrelevant for both parents: because of the economic circumstances which the family finds itself, the parents are unable to extend either fatherly protection or maternal tenderness to the children. The children have become faceless and anonymous, as if they have no future. The skimpy bathing suit of the girl and her pinched, weeping eyes seems to be a particularly ominous harbinger for the girl in the contemporary photograph; in the FSA photograph, the utterly concealed, 'buried' children seem to have lost all identifying characteristics, and simply symbolize need and despair. Although it would be impossible to confuse the two photographs, the similarity of expression in the faces of the subjects and the staging of the photographers are eerily resonant and haunting.

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