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Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition Essay

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2021

Introduction

The exhibition “Photography + Folk Art: Looking for America in the 1930s” is a remarkable venue where visitors can see and even feel the atmosphere of the years of the Great Depression in the United States. One of the most evoking pieces of this exhibition is the photograph by Arthur Rothstein created in 1937 and entitled “Girl at Gee’s Bend, Alabama” (see fig. 1). This photograph can be seen as an illustration of the life of African American poor people in the USA in the 1930s.

Girl at Gee’s Bend, Alabama, 1937
Figure 1. Girl at Gee’s Bend, Alabama, 1937 (“Collecting the Past”).

Main body

The piece under discussion displays the dreams of poor people of color about a better living and the misery of their current existence. The American government initiated the project that involved photographers who showed life on a farm (Mcdermott). Those people’s life was very difficult as they had to live in huts and work long hours. The shutter has some pictures of the luxury life of celebrities, which is in deep contrast to the rest of the house. The photograph shows that this window is one of the ways for the girl (and other people) to escape from reality and dream about the future. The artistic value of the piece is also notable as it has texture and meaning.

This exhibition can hardly be improved as all pieces are as informative and emotional as the pieces mentioned above. The hardships and strength of the people who had to live in poverty are displayed. The viewer is invited to compare their life with the life of underprivileged people who had to go through really hard times. The photograph can also be seen as a document revealing the truth about some of the most difficult times in the history of the United States.

“Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” by Ansel Adams

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” by Ansel Adams is a part of the collection of the Chicago Art Institute, and it also shows life in the United States in the first part of the 20th century. The piece was created in 1941 when the USA was still a country affected by the Great Depression (Swanson). However, this artwork reveals quite a specific area of people’s lives, which makes it very special. Ansel Adams shows the way people developed new territories that were still a lot to offer (see fig. 2).

The piece in question displays the grand nature and the insignificant footprint of the human. The viewer enjoys the view and shares the moment with the artist who captured the idyll of the life that was about to change dramatically. The photograph makes the viewer think about the price people had to pay for progress. On the one hand, Americans lost so many beautiful places to build plants, infrastructure, and cities. On the other hand, they did not have the comfort of modern life and had to overcome numerous hardships each day. The American nation had to address numerous challenges that made people stronger.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
Figure 2. “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico” by Ansel Adams (“Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”).

Conclusion

This collection is also remarkable and can be improved by adding more pieces similar to the one described. The artistic features of the photograph are worth mentioning as Adams captures layers that have diverse meanings: the sky, the mountains and horizon, the land, and the town. Metaphorically, the piece shows human life and people’s earthly living, as well as their hopes for a beautiful or better future and their thoughts about some eternal spheres.

Works Cited

Art Institute Chicago, n.d. Web.

Mcdermott, Annette. “History. 2018. Web.

Art Institute Chicago, n.d. Web.

Swanson, Ana. “The Washington Post. 2015. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, July 4). Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/photography-amp-folk-art-america-in-the-1930s-exhibition/

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"Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition." IvyPanda, 4 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/photography-amp-folk-art-america-in-the-1930s-exhibition/.

1. IvyPanda. "Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition." July 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/photography-amp-folk-art-america-in-the-1930s-exhibition/.


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IvyPanda. "Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition." July 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/photography-amp-folk-art-america-in-the-1930s-exhibition/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition." July 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/photography-amp-folk-art-america-in-the-1930s-exhibition/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Photography & Folk Art: America in the 1930s Exhibition'. 4 July.

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