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Sample essay topic, essay writing: Walker Evans - 1371 words
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Documentary projects The Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929 and lasted for the next decade, was a time of desperation and disorientation in America. In an effort to bring the country back on its feet, President Roosevelt initiated the Farm Security Administration (FSA) project. Photographers were hired and sent across the United States to document Americans living in poverty, and Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans were two of those photographers that were sent out. Along with their partners Paul S. Taylor and James Agee they started their projects which were approached through two different methods.
Agee and Evans project Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Lange and Taylor's project An American exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, are two similar, though different types of work. Both projects are of the poor tenant farmers in the south and the sharecroppers living during the Great Depression during the 1930s. The first difference I noticed is the way the pictures are presented in the two projects. By this I mean how they are taken and how Evans and Lange chose which ones that were to be included in the books. A second difference is that Agee and Taylor had two different writing techniques and these are the biggest differences between the two books
Despite the similarities in the two texts presented by the authors and photographers, their work is presented in two various ways. Agee and Evans project was done after living with three tenant families and Evans photographs are completely separate from Agees text. There are not any captions or names and they do not tell us where the photos are taken or who the people in the pictures are. Lange and Taylor's project on the other hand is written in a way that helps us read the photographs and it is easier to see the connections between the text and pictures. The captions underneath the photos are based on words formulated by the people in the picture.
However, the photos that do not have any people in them still have captions, but in this case we can assume that someone has told the photographer or author what to write for each photo. By this method the true meaning of how the turmoil during this period affected the people in question is more precisely illustrated because it includes the words uttered by the people themselves. Both Lange and Evans are documentary photographers; they just had alternative styles of taking photos. They are both called documentary photographers and they took their pictures because of the social cause, to show what was wrong with the world, and to influence others to take action and make it right. They wanted to illustrate to society the changes that the Great Depression caused and how people were affected by it.Dorothea Lange started taking photographs so she could document the misery of the American lower class. Lange wanted to make the lower class more visible so that she could encourage others to help.
Dorothea Lange remained loyal to her principles by taking direct, unmanipulated footage of the social issues that were going on during the Great Depression. Lange tried to capture the image, but was more interested in the feeling and moods behind the image and the underlying connotation of the pictures. Lange's main goal was to present her project to society in the true form that she observed the conditions and by this she wanted the portraits to reveal a deep understanding and sympathy towards her fellow human beings. Together with her husband Paul S. Taylor they collaborated to make the book An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion.
They tried to connect photographs, and text dealing with the causes and effects of this huge social disturbance with an added element: words they heard spoken by some of the people that were victims of the Great Depression. They did this to tell the story the way it actually was; how the people themselves felt and experienced the terrible times they lived in. The outcome of this is that we, the readers, get a clear meaning of what's going on. We do not have to read into the photographs or text to much, it is clear and simple. I think they included the captions in the text to reflect how they wanted to portray the situation to the public. By having sentences spoken by the people in the photos, the project is more believable and authentic.
Lange and Taylor completed the project through the eyes of the people affected by the Great Depression and not how they perceived the situation themselves. The writing style of Paul S.Taylor is also very different from James Agee. Taylor's way of writing differs because it is more straightforward and interesting; the language is simple and easier to comprehend. The writing style draws you in because the language is formulated in a way to bring attention to the topic and captures your interest due to the simplistic style of writing. It is not complicated language and therefore the text is easier to engage in. An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion applies more to the more "simple-minded".
The text goes hand in hand with the pictures and states a point that is easy to understand. There is no need to analyze the text or pictures any further. In 1936 Walker Evans started taking photographs for what has become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and I feel Evans photographs are more manipulated. The photos are carefully chosen in the way the pictures are presented. I find Agees writing at times boring and confusing.
The writing just keeps on repeating, and there are no periods in the text. Agee describes the world around him with his own thoughts and perceptions, in a complicating way to the point were it becomes exhausting to read. His writing, breaking usual grammatical standards, makes his text virtually unreadable. The sentence structure is more elaborated and a takes on a messy unstructured way of writing. The sentences contain too much information so it becomes strenuous to read. By using a writing method like that, I the reader, lose interest quickly because the information becomes boring and does not engage me.
It is as if he wrote down every thought in his head at once and compiled it into a text.These different styles of writing and photographing apply to different audiences. The more alternative and artistic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men would probably be preferred by the people that enjoy that type of literature and photography. This would be the people that don't want another straight forward "has been done hundreds of times"-kind of text, but enjoy a deeper meaning in the text so they can ponder over what they read, perhaps even create their own personal interpretation of the text. This is an example of the text. "You won't hear it nicely.
If it hurts you, be glad of it. As near as you will ever get, you are inside the music; not only inside it, you are it; your body is no longer your shape and substance, it is the shape and substance of the music." (101) Here the structure of the text is visible, but to me it becomes messy and confusing. I feel he tries to say more than is needed and the meaning behind the words becomes tedious. In conclusion, all though the projects of the authors and photographers are very similar they are very different as well. The only common element the two books contain is the depictions of the people during the Great Depression. They both try to illustrate the conditions during this time, but that's were the similarities end.
As mentioned earlier, the difference lies in the how the text is written and the methods chosen to present the pictures. I feel that Lange's and Taylor's book is a more accurate presentation of the Great Depression than the book written by Agee and Evans is. Agee and Evans's book seems to be more of a depiction of how they perceived the Great Depression rather than how it really was. Therefore, I feel their project is more of an "art-piece" rather than a documentary.
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