Reading Into Photos

Just a Little Help

I wish that taking a photo helped, but it does not. Regardless of the circumstances which put this couple out on this corner on this day, this must be nothing but a humbling experience. It also makes me think…

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother"
Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”

When we see folks out on the corners and intersections asking for work, food, or help, it is very easy to pass a quick judgement. The thought that just passed my mind was this: do we have that same reaction to photos from the Great Depression? When we see the “Migrant Mother”, do we think she almost deserves the life she has because of bad choices? Or maybe, “she is just faking it to get a little sympathy.” No, that probably is not what we are thinking.

However, people of that time were thinking something along those lines. I recently saw some photos taken during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl showing signs directing blacks and Okies to the balcony of a movie theater.

I would guess most of us would interpret these two photos differently. I do. Maybe we have good reason for a differing interpretation, and maybe we do not. Any thoughts?

Cooper Strange Written by:


  1. doug

    DNA? Just a guess. We, like snowflakes, differ. I am sure our interpretations are affected by our belief systems, our Weltanschauung, our life experiences, and more. More significantly however is the condition of our heart. The heart that has been transformed by Christ avoids judgmentalism and interpretation while deferring to love and service. The baptismal service has the vow: I will seek and serve Christ in others. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

  2. Cooper Strange

    The Christian most certainly should enter into the life of Christ, and thus living in love instead of judgment of others, but I certainly have to fight the judgmental inclination of my flesh regularly. I see Great Depression photos (that is simply a good example, but not the only example) and I think, “Wow, those times were so hard; those are brave people,” yet when I see folks on the corners today it is all too easy to think, “crack head” or “too lazy to go out and get a job”.

    As for interpretation of the photos, I say a hearty “yes” to the great affect our beliefs and experiences have upon how we view. Meaning, we could easily interpret differently than the next guy, which for me makes interpretation a dangerous thing: when it comes to something vitally important, we do not want hundreds of individual “truths” walking around. If our interpretation differs, how do we find the truth?

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