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More Photography

I particularly enjoyed our class session last night. I think all the groups did a great job in finding, analyzing, and sharing an image from the FSA/OWI digital archive. Next week's presentations should be really interesting.

I left last night's class with a number of questions that we can hopefully continue thinking about here. Looking at the images from presentations, does Roeder's claim that WWII imagery led to viewing the war in simple dichotomies still hold up? After all, these were images that had their roots in the 1930s imagery we saw in class? I also wonder if anyone had more thoughts about how we could draw connections between the 10 images presented in class? We discussed some, such as the primacy of work, questions about segregation/integration and who counts as American. For example, what other ideas did people have in looking at the image from a Montana bar with a sign prohibiting Indians from buying beer? Was the photo supportive, ironic, hostile... In short, I think there were some great ideas mentioned in class and I'm hoping there will be more added here.


The Montana picture had a very hostile feeling for me. Of the three people actually looking at the camera, none of them were smiling and they also had very cold looks on there faces. Almost every other person in the room had their backs to the camera, which only solidifies the hostile atmosphere. The over all message that I got from the picture was a defining statement that racism is present and minorities are not welcome. It’s a very sobering picture of the American ideals of the time: “minorities are welcome to serve and die for our country in war, but you're still not welcome to drink with us.?

About the Tiananmen Square protest you mentioned before the lecture yesterday regarding no student died during the protest, I think it is probably wrong. I was in Taiwan when this tragedy happened and all I remember from it was the blood all over the floor at the Tiananmen square. There were video clips showing on the news, students were covered by blood and Tanks were running over students. It was pretty scary for me to watch those images since I was only 8 years old. I wonder where you got the information from about no student killed, but there are definetly articles on the internet saying that China goverment trying to cover up the story by releasing out the information of no student died during the protest. As I remember, China goverment no doubt killed students too, not just those workers. So, I think your information in the first place was pretty right--there were students died during the protest.

P.S. I include one of the articles in the URL, maybe you can take a look at it.

I enjoyed being able to come up with a theme as a class of the photographs that we looked up in this certain era. I found it interesting that with war going on during this time that most photographs were not directed towards soliders and "action" shots but instead of everyday people. It was a way of seeing life during war time through a different lens even though many of the photos left us feeling sad and sorry for the subjects in the photos.

I personally think that the overall theme could be summed up with the theme of work. When we started talking about how much people's lifes were centered around their work it made me realize how different we really are from people in those times. These pictures were made up mostly of people working or in an environment that dealt with an occupation. Not only does this tell us how much work was emphasized in that time but also that the type of work being done and who was doing the work (women) was shifting during this time period. I think that WW2 gave women a huge boost into the work force and capturing this on photographs makes us conscious that this was a time period when a major turn for women was taking place. During the depression, the lack of working pictures other than farming emphasizes that people are helpless and unstable with out a life revolving around an occupation.

The issue presented in class and also brought up by Jeff about Tiananmen Square is very interesting. It makes me think critically about what to believe in the media and encourages me to do some research before accepting the media as truth. It is interesting that there is still a debate about what actually occurred. What is troubling is how you can ever be sure about history if it has always been constructed. I thought it was useful to think critically about the photographs displayed in class and I thought it was interesting that people could have drastically different opinions about what the photographs represented.

I would like to address the theme of segregation that was brought up during our class discussion of the pictures. I was surprised that out of 10 groups, no one decided to use a picture that had a minority in it. It’s not that there aren’t any pictures because I have come across numerous ones while searching for pictures for the group project. What is it about the pictures of minorities that made us decide not to use them and focus on ones that showed white men and women? Is it that we have a preconceived notion that the ones struggling or going through hardships during this time were those of the white race? This is just a thought, but is it possible that maybe we have been influenced by other pictures that are representative of that same time period and sought out pictures that matched ones we had seen before?

Also, I think when American soil is attacked, we are more willing to go to war with those who committed crimes against us rather than getting involved in wars where those who were killed did not have a direct connection with us. I think that is reflective in the photographs both of previous wars and current ones.

Wow, everyone has made some great comments on the blog this week. I hope we can keep this conversation going in class tonight. Jeff H. brings up an interesting point regarding what actually happened in Tiananmen Square. I think we're in fact talking about the same thing, in that I meant to say that, yes, people were killed (including students) but that most of this killing apparently took place in parts of the city away from the Square itself. In the context of this class, the interesting point is why many journalists in the U.S. and elsewhere have told the story in a somewhat inaccurate manner (and why the news public has so readily believed them). Chris Matthews describes the issue succinctly in a 1998 Columbia Journalism Review article (http://archives.cjr.org/year/98/5/tiananmen.asp).

Other comments about the photos are really interesting. Thinking back to the Montana bar photo, Joanna points out how not only the signs, but the positioning of the people lends the photo a hostile atmosphere. Depending on how one looks at it, the photo almost puts you in the position of a native American walking into this bar and being confronted simultaneously with the sign and the hostile patron. Other thoughts? Elizabeth's comment gets at this issue on an even deeper level. None of us chose images of minorities to display in class. Why not? Is it us? The photographers in the 1930s? As we have hopefully seen, the politics of representation is tricky stuff.

I thought it was funny that next to the "Indian = no beer" sign there was a proud to be an American sign.

It is kind of ironic that being "American" today requires citizenship; we have people of all races, religions, etc. Then, you had to be white....at least in most areas. I guess some regions were more acceptable of others.
I just find it Ironic that this country was founded on protecting unalienable rights, and then these no-brainers are scattered throughout our history.