Photojournalism by Alison Wright • • • • • “black families of the Mississippi Delta,” a single mother working a low-wage job in Ohio, “food bank in Appalachia,” “migrant workers . . . in Texas,” “Indians on a Navaho reservation . . . With no running water or electricity.” • Why these examples? • She wants to show that poverty affects people of many ethnic groups in different parts of the country. • In developing countries, poor people are thin, but in America, obesity and related health problems are the issue for poor people because they have a diet lacking proper nutrition and can’t afford healthcare. • The furniture is very simple with basic linens on the beds, and part of the ceiling is falling down, showing that they have limited income and resources. The items on the wall show that they try to bring some beauty into their lives. The cross suggests that religion is important to them. • Why did she choose to photograph the children in a group rather than individually? • She wants to emphasize that all seven children, who are very close in age, sleep in this one small bedroom and must sleep at least two to each bed. • . Mood is the atmosphere created in a photograph through lighting, setting, and props. Mood is the way the viewer feels when looking at the photograph. Captions, or words under images like photographs, may add to or even change a viewer’s understanding of the image. On page 214, what mood has the photographer created with just the photograph itself? • It shows shoppers at a warehouse store. The long line of people waiting in the stark, shed-like structure suggests an anxious, apprehensive mood. The interaction of the women with the baby in the cart adds some lightness to the mood and suggests a feeling of community. • After reading the caption and knowing it is a food bank rather than a store, the viewer realizes that these people are dependent on the free food in order for their families to survive. • She wanted to show the starkness and isolation of their living situation; from this distance viewers can see their inadequate living quarters against a cold, harsh landscape. • Why would she have shown them outside during winter instead of inside of the bus? • Photographing them in winter reveals how difficult it is to survive with no electricity or water when it is cold and snowy. Photographing the outside of the bus shows the viewer something familiar in an unfamiliar context – a bus is not usually considered a place to live. The outside shot also reveals the generator that may give them a little heat. • . A photo essay has a cumulative effect as the photos combine to tell a story and allow viewers to find common themes. Compare the photo of the woman and her two children with the photo of the seven children in the first photo. What details reveal similarities in their situations? • • In both photographs, the furniture is very basic and rather worn, as are the walls. Both families decorate their walls with items that are meaningful although not of high monetary value. • Subjects are posed in tight groups, but they are not interacting with each other. Instead, they look directly into the camera with expressions that are stoic, even sad. The mood is one of lonely endurance in the face of great challenge. • Wright’s wide angles present her subjects in context to convey the conditions with which they struggle. In the first photograph, viewers see the crumbling ceiling and the children’s small beds. The photo of the food bank demonstrates the sheer number of people needing help. The snow and the shabby school bus stun viewers with the reality of what the family must cope with daily. The last photo emphasizes the darkness of the family’s life through the darkness of the setting. By including details of setting, Wright imprints her message about poverty on viewers. • How do the captions add to the effectiveness of the photo essay? What is the relationship between the captions on the introductory text on page 213? • The captions include facts that help viewers better understand the images. They refer to specific sentences in the introduction, helping viewers unify the written and visual information and appreciate the severity of each situation. • Wright’s style might be described as realistic. She avoids special lighting effects to emphasize the grim reality her subjects face. She includes children to show that they are the ones most afflicted by poverty in America. While people remain the focal point of her images, she carefully establishes the background to convey important ideas about their lives. The mood of each photo might be called somber or grim. The expressions on the faces of the subjects reinforce this mood. They face the camera the same way they face their lives, unflinchingly but without much hope.