“At the Time of the Louisville Flood” by Margaret Bourke-White

The image I have chosen is one by Margaret Bourke-White, titled “At the Time of the Louisville Flood”. Margaret Bourke-White was born on June 14, 1904. She first gained recognition as an industrial photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio and worked for the magazine company known as Fortune. She then became one of the founding member for the magazine LIFE, having shot the very first cover of their magazine. Margaret’s name became world-famous for her amazing photographs, even more impressive to have accomplished this at a time when is was a man’s world.

This photograph really gets my attention due to the great irony illustrated in it. When looking at this picture I first take notice to the huge billboard at the back of the setting in this photograph. The billboard has an image of what looks like four members of a caucasian family driving in a car. The family in the billboard all show an expression of happiness and the caption reads, “World’s highest standard of living” and “There’s no way like the American way. From there my eyes move down to the lineup of people in front of the billboard.

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The information online (New StatesMan, 2011), states that it is a bread line during the Louisville Flood in 1937. The African American people lined up in front of the billboard are victims of the Flood waiting for food. This is what I find to be irony of the picture, here the billboard states that the American’s way of life is the “world’s highest standard of living,” where directly below we see people lined up below hungry for food.

The happier portion of the photograph shows an “average American family”, what it is portrayed to be by the media. The way it was seen is that the American way consisted of “the classic millionaire family”. The lighter colours depict an upbeat tone to the scene, while the dark colours- which in this case would be the African Americans- which emits a more sorrowful tone. The family in the car seems to run over the black people metaphorically as if they are not aware of the existence of the African Americans. With its idealized portrait of a prosperous white middle-class family, bears no relation to the reality faced by Louisville’s African Americans, struggling to cope after losing everything. ” (New StatesMan, 2011)

When this picture was taken photography was something fairly new to this period. Digital manipulation was highly unlikely at that time so the picture was seen in its purity. Having this photography in black and white makes the subject Furthermore, this photograph is more powerful in black and white rather than in color because the contrast between the main subjects is more obvious.

It is taken from an ordinary perspective and angle which draws the viewers in easily. The picture is therefore divided into two parts supplement to each other from this point of view. This is an effective and influential piece due to the issue brought up by the irony. Through her photograph, Margaret Bourke-White successfully depicted the living standard of African Americans in reality back in the 1930’s compared to the so called “American dream. ” This is one of my favorite photographs because of the truthfulness it represents.

This image not only brings the suffering of the flood victims to the viewers but also demonstrates the mock made by the billboard toward the victims. If this photograph is presented without any descriptions and title, it would make little sense to the spectators. Without showing the very front of the bread line, it would be hard for viewers to know who are the people lining up in front of the billboard and the meaning of this particular scene. I think this is the only part where can be improved to make this image more effective.

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“At the Time of the Louisville Flood” by Margaret Bourke-White. (2017, Feb 17). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/at-the-time-of-the-louisville-flood/