A photograph that made me think – Man Beside Wheelbarrow, Dorothea Lange

Due to the barren nature of the background of this photograph, the eye is immediately drawn into the head of this man, which is lying on his hands, portraying an extreme sense of exhaustion and despair. The lack of colour and the fact you cannot see the man’s face gives anonymity to the image, provoking the idea that this feeling of despair is not only felt by him, but also others. The origin is San Francisco, California in 1934, which prompts me to link this emotion of sadness to the Great Depression, a feeling shared by millions of Americans in the 1930s. This is emphasised further by the overturned wheelbarrow next to him, symbolising a loss of hope and stagnation from the way the wheel is no longer moving and turning, just like many people’s working lives at this time. His clothes and shoes are worn and unkempt, implying these may be the only he owns, again underlining his lack of money. For the angle of this photograph, Lange would’ve had to squat down to the man’s level, illuminating her sense of empathy towards those in the Depression. From her doing this, the viewer is put on the same level as this individual, not as a superior to him, allowing them to convey more compassion.

Alice Lock

L1 Photography, University of the West of England


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