Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

  1. #1
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Glenfarg, Scotland
    Posts
    19,701
    Real Name
    Just add 'MacKenzie'

    The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Given that I'm just not getting out with the camera at the moment, the next best thing is reading and looking at images in order to try and keep learning.

    Tim Clinch, writing in the latest 'Black & White Photography', talks about the impact seeing Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother' for the first time had upon him - a 15 year-old at the time. He provides a couple of good links. This one documents Lange's own recollection of capturing the image and this one gives more information about the subject, Florence Owens Thomson.

    I suppose these are only of interest if, like Clinch (and me), you agree that it is one of the truly great images in photography.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    2,550
    Real Name
    Andre Burger

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Donald, to us dedicated amateur photographers the question must certainly be, "What makes it a truly great image"?

  3. #3
    kdoc856's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    1,959
    Real Name
    Kevin

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Thanks for the links, Donald. I have several of Lange's books. The book of images from her work with the Farm Security Administration is actually fairly pedestrian as one might expect from a contracted, documentary work. The other, one of several she did in Ireland, is spectacular.

  4. #4
    Shadowman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    WNY
    Posts
    29,161
    Real Name
    John

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    It is of interest for many reasons, one is that this particular image has been critiqued so frequently, and not always so favorably, yet even with flaws pin-pointed described as an example of noteworthy photographic skill.

  5. #5
    xpatUSA's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    2,947
    Real Name
    Ted

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Thanks, Donald. Like many of us, I guessed what the image was before clicking on the link. Didn't know it's history, though. A picture of the times, for sure.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC
    Posts
    17,884

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    "What makes it a truly great image"?
    It helped move people into action that saved people's lives. No matter how great the artistic impact a photograph might have, that impact pales in comparison to helping save lives. That isn't to say that this particular photo doesn't have strong artistic impact (it does for me), but that is left up to each of us to decide for ourselves and can be debated in a way that saving lives probably can't.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Northernmost PA
    Posts
    254
    Real Name
    Susan

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    This image epitomizes the expression - a picture is worth a thousand words. It showed people in a way that words never could what it was like to be a mother with hungry children.

    Thanks for the links, Donald.

  8. #8
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,426
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    This image is probably among the great photojournalistic images of all time... There are a handful of images which are always shown or mentioned when a photographer or an era is talked or written of.

    Images of that caliber include Robert Capa's shot of the Spanish Republican soldier getting shot during the Spanish Civil War (despite some suspicions that this was staged for benefit of the camera).

    Joe Rosenthal's epic picture of the flag being raised on Mount Surabachi during the campaign to take Iwo Jima was definitely staged... A smaller flag had been raised the previous day but, the Marine General, seeing the smaller flag; had his marines raise a larger and more photogenic banner on the next day. Joe Rosenthal caught that raising, which was a lot more dramatic and has been adopted as one of the icons of the U.S. Marine Corps and arguably of World War II itself...

    Some images are iconic but, have been somewhat misinterpreted. A prime example of misimterpretation is Eddie Adams image of the "murder" of a Viet Cong by the Saigon Police Chief. The anti war protesters adopted this image as an example of how horrible the Saigon Government (and thus the Americans) were to the "valiant" Vietcong who were fighting for the "freedom" of Vietnam. What Adams’ photograph doesn’t reveal is that the man being shot was the captain of a Vietcong "revenge squad" that had executed dozens of unarmed civilians earlier the same day. (Such Tit-For-Tat violence may not be excusable but, IMO, can be understood).

    Photos are what the editors make of them... It was certainly terrible that many Vietnamese were killed at the Mai Lai Massacre and I will certainly not condone killings like that. The photos of those bodies got international coverage. However the photos of the hundreds upon hundreds of men. women and children murdered by the V.C. and North Vietnamese in Hue, during the "Tet Offensive" were never given much space by editors.

    Mathew Brady and other American Civil War photographers are said to have moved dead bodies around to make the images more dramatic!

    There are quite a few of the photography greats that I really admire who are often identified with a single image or series of images; David Douglas Duncan's images of the Korean War, W.Eugene Smith's dark images of the Spanish Village, and others...

    What about Steve McCurray's haunting portrait of the Afghan girl which appeared on the cover of National Geographic, Time Magazine and other publications. This image is so iconic that if you do a google search simply for "Afghan Girl", the many examples of this image will pop up. I suspect, however, that more people remember this image than the name of the photographer!

    The thing that I always marvel about is that these great earlier photographers were working with equipment which in many ways was inferior to today's equipment, even to today's entry level DSLR cameras. Additionally, the use of film was another handicap for photojournalists. How about making a landing under intense enemy fire on Utah Beach during the invasion of Normandy. Then have the darkroom technician virtually ruin your images by attempting to speed up the drying process with too hot a drying temperature, reticulating all the negatives. This happened to Robert Capa...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 9th February 2013 at 04:56 PM.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    2,550
    Real Name
    Andre Burger

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    It helped move people into action that saved people's lives.
    Should we then be moved by an image and call it an all time great because we find some emotional attachment to it? Can you be objective in your evaluation if you are emotionally attached to the subject?
    Not being argumentative, just want to know how objective man can be?

  10. #10
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Glenfarg, Scotland
    Posts
    19,701
    Real Name
    Just add 'MacKenzie'

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Should we then be moved by an image and call it an all time great because we find some emotional attachment to it? Can you be objective in your evaluation if you are emotionally attached to the subject?
    Not being argumentative, just want to know how objective man can be?
    Fair comment. But, for me, it's greatness comes from the emotion it evokes. Some people can achieve that through the use of words (great orators and/or writers). Some have and can achieve it through art, other than photography - painting, sculpture, etc. And some can do it through photography.

    Greatness in art can never, I suggest, be assessed objectively. There will always be a subjective (emotional) element to that judgement.

  11. #11

    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Québec,Canada
    Posts
    696
    Real Name
    Louise

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Should we then be moved by an image and call it an all time great because we find some emotional attachment to it? Can you be objective in your evaluation if you are emotionally attached to the subject?
    Not being argumentative, just want to know how objective man can be?
    With today's technology I will gamble that it is possible to enter all the parametres and maths required to juged the elements of a good picture. They would possibly be: lighting, subject (facial recognition, landscape recognition, macro), flower, colours/black & white, proportions, rules (of 1/3, golden number...),abstract ect...
    When it comes time to reconized that the "mother and her children are dressed in durty rags and that they are starving" would the objectivity be of any help to humain kind? Even animals are known to show compassion and help their kind. And they will as long as they see it. If a single picture can bring as much response, than there is something possibly intangible, not having physical presence, that reaches us. I dare say that is where the machine ends and the Human begins.

  12. #12

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC
    Posts
    17,884

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Should we then be moved by an image and call it an all time great because we find some emotional attachment to it?
    Not in my mind. That in itself is an insufficient reason.

    Keep in mind that you asked what makes it a truly great image. Similarly, you could ask what makes a particular person truly great. That person would not have to be good looking to be great, but there would have to be some result of that person's existence to make him or her great. I posited that the image is great at least on the basis that it helped save lives and, that considering that nothing could be more important, that is sufficient reason at least for me to call it truly great. If I could make a photo that saved lives, that would be more important to me than its artistic merit no matter how favorably that aspect is received.

    Can you be objective in your evaluation if you are emotionally attached to the subject?
    Yes, if the aspect being evaluated is subject to objective evaluation. As an example, despite that I am emotionally attached to my wife, it's possible for me to be objective about the effectiveness of her career. Yet it's not possible for me to be objective about the smile on her face and the glint in her eyes. Similarly, iconic images such as this one have a history that can be objectively reviewed even though its artistic qualities can never be objectively reviewed.

    As Donald mentioned, artistic merit is a subjective quality that can never be evaluated objectively.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 12th February 2013 at 01:55 PM.

  13. #13

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    2,550
    Real Name
    Andre Burger

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    To illustrate what I am trying to say, can I go out and find a poor Black family with a burnt out shack where they lost all their earthly possessions. I will not need to write a story on what I am trying to depict, you will be able to see it in the image. Will that image be considered one of the all time great images? (Yes I will convert it to B&W, no I will shoot it in B&W.)

    Will the world jump at assisting thousands of these families whom have lost everything in a fire?

  14. #14
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,426
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Speaking of an image which is iconic because of the emotion it conveys... Take a look at this image of a Vietnamese Girl fleeing from a napalm attack...

    http://news.yahoo.com/ap-napalm-girl...210339788.html

    This image is so iconic that when I Googled "Vietnamese Girl" without any other words this image on many sites was instantly found...

    Is it a "GREAT" image because of its merits as a photo or is it "GREAT" because of the emotional impact? Or is it not "GREAT" at all?

    That is for the individual viewer to decide!

  15. #15

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    northern Virginia suburb of Washington, DC
    Posts
    17,884

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Will the world jump at assisting thousands of these families whom have lost everything in a fire?
    I've never found it helpful to get in discussions about hypothetical situations but I will mention that getting your photo to the right people at the right time could produce those results. That's what happened in the case of the "Migrant Mother."

  16. #16
    rpcrowe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southern California, USA
    Posts
    12,426
    Real Name
    Richard

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Photos will touch some people when the written word will not! This picture, shot by one of our volunteers, of a rescue puppy who had been attacked by some big dog and lost one eye completely and will probably lose the sight in ther other eye has generated a lot of financial support for her vet care.

    The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words...

  17. #17

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Johannesburg South Africa
    Posts
    2,550
    Real Name
    Andre Burger

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    getting your photo to the right people at the right time could produce those results
    Aha, thanks Mike. In other words, if we can capture images that convey a story with emotion it might be considered a great image. Hypothetical discussion or not, have I not perhaps learned something from it?

    Richard, may it also be considered to be a great image? Why not.

    Would it be reasonable to say: another GUIDELINE in capturing great images would be to touch the heart and soul of the viewer in such a manner that it will lead the viewer to react to it? The reaction can either be positive or negative.
    The image does not necessarily have to be either compositionally or technically perfect?

  18. #18

    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Paris region, France
    Posts
    129
    Real Name
    Chris

    Re: The Story of an Iconic Image - Migrant Mother

    I think Donald is begging the question, with his links to the background, context, and effects of this photo : how would it be considered if no-one had ever known any of that, if it had no consequences, if it was just an unidentified image floating in the void? Sure, when you read the texts, they are tear-jerkers, but what do you see in the image itself ? For me it is the coldness and hardness of despair.
    The question 'what makes an image great ?' reminds me of the mocked answer in 'Dead Poet's Society' : take the importance of the subject and multiply it by the skill of the artist. I suspect however that there are as many answers as there are reasons for taking photographs. As I have not yet found my own reasons for taking photos, I'll stop there.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •