A picture paints a thousand words. It speaks audible words that penetrate the hearts of those on lookers scrutinizing them. It speaks louder than expected. Pictures are frequently found on advertisements, billboards, magazines, internet, television, and other media. They are intended to convey an idea in the most brief, concise and effective way. A picture is worth more than a thousand words. It screeches diverse messages depending on how one views them. It squeals in the most simple and subtle manner where the echoes are carried by those who has seen them even for a long time. It is an effortless medium to convey a message.
The picture “Migrant Mother” taken by Dorothea Lange during the Resettlement Period in Nipomo, California in 1963 is a picture that carries more than a thousand words. Looking at the picture alone, many words can pop out of the mind of onlookers such as poverty, hunger, hopelessness, family, help and many more. Indeed, the single shot of the mother with her children creates a mantra of events on the minds of onlookers trying to place themselves on the shoes of the subject.
The mother with her two children on her sides is posed naturally creating an atmosphere of heavy drama. It is easy to assume that they are family. It can be seen on the way the children lean on their mother as source of comfort to what they are currently going through. They rest their worries to their mother since they are in a battle where they are weaponless.
The features of the mother carry the most intense drama in the picture. Her features are taken quite vividly such that, anyone can cry their hearts out upon her solemn expression. Her eyes are replica of gloom. She is looking at a far distant without really seeing anything. She seems tired and extremely exhausted with her eyes dried up from previous crying and wailing and yet nothing still happens. The way her brows crease almost meeting in the middle shows discontent reverberating with her eyes reflecting hopelessness. Wrinkles are dominant all over her face: on her forehead, on her eyes, on her cheeks as well as on the crease on her lips. She aged so much than her true age of thirty two.
The woman looks utterly sullen. The way her lips carve downward signifies that she can’t afford to smile. She slightly leans her head on her hands portraying loneliness, boredom, exhaustion and total lifelessness. She might have been in this state for quite some time. She is idle because she can’t do anything but to wait. She can’t afford to tidy herself up and her children to make their selves appear more presentable.
The leaning of her children on her sides is a silent movement. No words are coming out from them, but their feelings and emotions are screaming on top of their heads. However, no matter how much they mutter to themselves, there is nothing that their mother can do. So they just end up clutching to the sides of their mother, getting comforted somehow that they have a mother to lean on despite the great hunger that engulfed them.
The long distance look on the eyes of the mother reflects indifference to the shuttering of the camera as they are angled again and again by the photographer. The children who are naturally beguiled by foreigners taking pictures could not care less for them as well. It is if they don’t mind having them around. They are too lifeless from hunger and thirst that they show no reactions aside from turning away from the camera and hide their sullen face and crying eyes.
The picture taken in black and white further adds color to the intensity of the scene. It appears like there are only two options in the world for them. It is either light or day, good or bad, life or death, black or white. Right now, they appear in gray. Tainted, disheveled, almost like a sketch. Waiting to fade and erased from this world.
There is a wild screech of message about hunger and poverty coming out from this picture. It is intensely loud that anyone looking at them would beat their chests in sympathy with the pain that the subjects are going through. Their pain is high above them that they care not about anything anymore. They are taken with close range pictures but yet they can’t afford to glance at the camera. They can’t afford to pose. They can no longer smile and hide the reality that deep inside them is chaos caused by the government not attending to their needs as citizens. It is as if they are being neglected and taken for granted. The hopelessness in this picture pierces sharply with a vibrating sonata in hope that their situation can be heard by the authorities.
This picture bears a heavy burden. It screams a lot of message. It claims great attention. It speaks silent words that are deafening to fathom. This is from the age of great depression. It is a powerful picture scorching to the public awareness about the other side of the world. If pictures can speak, this picture knows no rest. Its echoes for “help” would remain forever.
“Migrant Mother”. Web.
3b41800r.jpg . 27 February 2014.
“Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” Photographs in the Farm Security Administration
Collection: An Overview”. The Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs Division.
Rosenberg, J. “Great Depression Pictures”. About.com 20th Century History. 2014. Web. 28 February 2014.