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This paper examines the specificity of Twelve Million Black Voices within the frame of American documentary photography. The second part raises the question of the social, economic and political reality exposed by the widespread publication of photographs of —invisible— black Americans. This paper thus strives to articulate the recording of Woman looking nsa Stryker reality and the exposure of racial discrimination, the aesthetic vision of FSA photographers and the protest narrative unfolded by Wright by discussing the singular way Twelve Million Black Voices manages to ify the truth of the African American reality.

Dorothea Lange, We plow and plant Cotton 1. Both books were published inboth rely on photographs by Walker Evans—one of them is the exact same—and stem from the work of Farm Security Administration FSA photographers. Both books are of course a collection of photographs accompanied by a powerful text and present a tension on the between image and fact 2 on the one hand, and aesthetics and politics on the other. Yet this administration with a government agenda produced an exceptional legacy beyond the immediate propagandistic purposes.

On that occasion, as well as for the updated editions, Stryker worked in close collaboration with Lewis Hine and later discovered the work of Margaret Bourke-White Hurley, Twelve Million Black Voices displays portraits and visual representations of the lives of the twelve million invisible black Americans and releases a protesting voice for the twelve million silent black Americans. Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother. The vast majority of pictures in the FSA file […] remain richly informative about the country in those years. Stange,xv. If the fact only, the raw unmediated image is the powerful vector of social and cultural truth in the spirit of s documentary photography, then what Woman looking nsa Stryker to be made of the narrative in Twelve Million Black Voices?

The second part will reflect on how the widespread publication of photographs of black Americans may have allowed to expose the reality of Black life in America and may now provide a valuable source for scholars of the Great Migration, the Great Depression and African-American history.

This paper thus strives to articulate the recording of Woman looking nsa Stryker reality and the exposure of racial discrimination, the aesthetic vision of FSA photographers and the protest narrative unfolded by Wright. Consequently, the FSA fund, currently available at the Library of Congressstands out as an exceptional legacy for the study of s America and of the African American community in daily, work and home situations. If you want to get a comprehensive picture of our country, you should go through these files sometime.

The Historical Section was thus instrumental in setting up different kinds of exhibits. This ranged from actually putting together modest picture travelling exhibits to providing material for the annual U. By the FSA claimed a distribution of about 1, images every month to newspapers and periodicals that included popular magazines such as Time, Woman looking nsa Stryker, Life, Look, Today Bezner,6 and Stange, When it comes to the more general traveling shows, Natanson contends that black representation was not visible.

Blacks are completely absent from a majority of the later shows, including the big nationalistic pitches in […] When black images were included, representation tended to be quantitatively slight, qualitatively problematical, or both. Natanson, Press distribution went along the same lines. John Vachon, Negro Foundry Workers. Russell Lee, Roller Skating Rin g. The presentation of industrious urban workers and non-stereotyped recreational activities differs from the caricatured representations usually available, including through the FSA-sponsored exhibits and supply to the press.

Interestingly enough, some of these pictures were specifically collected for the Twelve Million Black Voices project. Wright had already been influenced by the works of Chicago sociologist Robert Park for the character development of Bigger Thomas. In JanuaryWright was able to provide Rosskam with an elaborate work in progress based on his research and readings since the summer, readings that were to be quoted in the preface.

Original because it displayed a reality that had rarely been shown as such and because one third was specifically collected for the book.

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Such titles evidence the discursive project of the photo-text book. In that sense, the text is not so much a commentary of the photographs, or the photos merely illustrative of the text, they collaboratively create an intended meaning. Woman looking nsa Stryker the two sharecroppers are to be seen as descendants of slaves but only the words allow both an imposed connection between the contemporary despair and the past of slavery and a suggested difference with the white sharecroppers the audience was used to seeing and whose plight could be connected to the Great Depression.

They live in an old converted schoolhouse with two grandchildren. Ben Shahn, Cotton Pickers. Russell Lee, Negro Dwellin g.

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Olivier Lugon has convincingly argued that the protagonists of documentary photography, such as Stryker, actually used the reference to Hine in a retrospective construction of their own method. This paper will not delve into the debate of art versus Woman looking nsa Stryker or politics that surrounds the discussions about documentary photography. Such a debate has been usefully commented on by William Stott or more recently by Olivier Lugon.

He will put into his camera studies something of the emotion which he feels toward the problem for he realizes that this is the most effective way to teach the public he is addressing. Newhall,5. Presentation is also a vital part of documentary still photography. It is paradoxical that, although a photograph may be better than a thousand words, the addition of one or two words makes it even more concrete and forceful.

Newhall,6. Unsurprisingly this is also the most often encountered criticism against Twelve Million Black Voices : its gloomy representation of black life, or the over-sentimental tone.

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The target was undoubtedly a white readership likely to buy or come across the book. The contemporary reading thus suggested the exposure of an unmediated truth and access to the reality of black life. It was discovered through the series the photographer had taken that he had moved the ox skull from its original spot to another location, a mere ten feet away, but whose cracked earth environment suggested a more severe drought and desolation. The deliberate choice of a partial truth that seems to be suggested by some of the readers and commentators may not be a flaw Woman looking nsa Stryker Twelve Million Black Voices but its very essence.

I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it ; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears. Wright, Wright did not yield :. I fully understand the value of what you are driving at, but, frankly, the narrative as it now Woman looking nsa Stryker simply will not support a more general or hopeful conclusion. The Negro who flees the South is really a refugee ; he is so pinched and straitened in his environment that his leaving is more an avoidance than an embrace.

Natanson reminds that the contemporary representation of the African American community more than often indulged in stereotyped images. The book contains eight pictures of African American congregations at prayer, or reading or singing, a rare sight in segregated America and Woman looking nsa Stryker that captures African American life well.

Richard Wright himself, born and raised in Mississippi, left for Chicago by way of Memphis in and was a product of the Great Migration. In the s another million followed Grossman, New York but also Chicago and its meat packing industry were destinations of choice, with fifty to seventy-five thousand black southerners relocating to Chicago between and Grossman,4. In that sense, cotton fields and urban slums are two symbolically adequate faces of s African American truth offered in Twelve Million Black Woman looking nsa Stryker.

The push to better for African American agency has given credence to community-studies and opened the scope of the Civil Rights Movement to the grassroots protests of the Second World War, to the reforms and liberal consciousness of the New Deal Era Stikoff, and even to the community building of the Great Migration Woman looking nsa Stryker, We are winning our heritage, though the toll in suffering is great!

But this paper is more interested in the larger reading offered by the addition and weaving of a narrative into the sequence of pictures. Russell Lee, Mother and SonChicago. Marion Wolcott Post, Maid, Georgi a. In that sense, Twelve Million Black Voices has a specific place and purpose in Great Depression photo books insofar as it reaches far beyond the immediacy of the crisis. What I wanted to do was make an outline for a series of historical novels telescoping Negro history in terms of the urbanization of a feudal folk.

My aim was to try to show in a foreshortened form that the development of Negro life in America parallels the development of all people everywhere. Kinnamon, We black men and women in America today, as we look back upon scenes of rapine, sacrifice, and death, seem to be children of a devilish aberration, descendants of an interval of nightmare in history, fledglings of a period of amnesia on the part of men who once dreamed a great dream and forgot.

Alabama tenant farmer near Anniston. Dorothea Lange. Yet the FSA archive displays the whole series taken in by Woman looking nsa Stryker Lange and leaves no doubt as to the fact that the tenant family was a white family. Photo 12 provides but one example from the archive ; several other photographs portray the whole family at work in the fields and more than undoubtedly evidence that they were white.

It seems to me that photography only becomes documentary when it is documented […] Documentary seems to me a matter of intent, not only on the part of the photographer but of the viewer as well. It is as much a matter of how the picture is used as how it is taken. Newhall, Our commentary of Photo 6 has already suggested that photo and text collaborate to ify a new meaning, as does the African American tradition, in a context of oppression and danger, to express a self-determined meaning that might not be accepted and tolerated in a oppressive context.

Those who have did offer interesting hints in terms of reading paradigms such as Jack B. Moore and his suggestion that Twelve Million Black Voices presents similarities not just with other photo books of the period but with film documentaries as well: the visual imagery combined with the impression of a speaking voice does remind of film techniques. In the end, while both documentary photography techniques and black tropes have been under consideration, they have rarely been reconciled. Their encounter, however, is allowed by the ifyin g approach here borrowed from African American scholar Henry Louis Gates.

In the same way as W. Three hundred years are a long time for millions of folk like us to be held in such subjection, so long a time that perhaps scores of years will have to pass before we shall be able to express what this slavery has done to us, for our personalities are still numb from its long shocks.

Dorothea Lange, Cotton hoers going to work, Mississipp i. The folk culture that lies at the heart of the narrative is one of revolt and agency, Wright also makes clear:. We stole words from the grudging lips of the Lords of the Lands, who did not want us to know too many of them or their meaning. And we charged this meager horde of stolen sounds with all the emotions and longings Woman looking nsa Stryker had ; we proceeded to build our language in inflections of voice, through tonal variety, by hurried speech, in honeyed drawls, by rolling our eyes, by asing to common, simple words new meanings, meanings which enabled us to speak of revolt in the actual presence of the Lords of the Lands without their being aware!

In that perspective of a folk culture both revealed and enacted in Twelve Million Black Voicesone is able to seize the way Wright may be ifyin g on the pictures displayed to support his thesis that African American history must be included within the larger frame of American History. For years we watch the timid faces of poor white peasants-Turks, Czechs, Croats, Finns, and Greeks-pass through this curtain of smoke and emerge with the sensitive features of modern men.

But our faces do not change […] Of a morning, years later, we pick up [the newspaper] and see that some former neighbors of ours, a Mr. Klein or Murphy or Potaci or Pierre or Cromwell or Stepanovich and their children—kids we once played with upon the slag piles—are now living in the suburban areas, having swum upstream through the American waters of opportunity into the professional classes. The slums are Woman looking nsa Stryker a first landing step as they may have been for 19 th Century immigrants or a temporary fallout of a Depression era, they are the dwellings of Black Americans without any hope of an upcoming improvement.

The pictures alone could not suffice to illustrate that the black experience is both the same as that of other Americans and strikingly different, both part of and on the margin of the American story. The effectiveness of Twelve Million Black Voices as a powerful gesture of empowerment and activism is reckoned by Ralph Ellison :. The book makes me feel a bitter pride ; a pride which springs from the realization that after all the brutalization, starvation and suffering, we have begun to embrace the experience and master it.

And we shall make of it a weapon more subtle, more effective than a fighter plane! It was able to draw from s documentary photography, both in content and strategy, and foster the interesting encounter of the New Deal photographers and photo editors with a radical African American perspective to construct the truth of African American experience from the photographed reality of s America, a much needed material for the Civil Rights fights that were to come in the next decade.

Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, All photographs are available on the Library of Congress website. As US Government work, they are not copyrighted and their reproduction here is accordance with the Rights and Restrictions Information.

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Greene County, Georgia, p. Jack Delano, Negro preacher and his wife sitting under photos taken of them twenty years ago. The rest of their children have moved out of the county. Heard County, Georgia,p. Ben Shahn, Picking cotton on Alexander plantation. Pulaski County, Arkansas, p.

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Russell Lee, Back of multi-family dwellings rented to Negroes. Chicago, Illinois, p. Russell Lee, Corner of kitchen of apartment rented to Negroes. Marion Wolcott Post, Negro domestic servant. Atlanta, Georgia, p. Alabama tenant farmer near Anniston, p. Dorothea Lange, These cotton hoers work from 6 a.

Woman looking nsa Stryker

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