The photographs that Lange took in the camp in California hadvarious purposes. However, the images such as the infamous “MigrantMother” photo that she took in 1936 served a political purpose. Theimages showed destitute families in the camp who lacked food or anymeans of survival. It is essential to note that the photographs thatshe took were published in the local papers such as the SanFrancisco News. The government was not aware of the plight of thepea pickers. Therefore, the political leadership of the country usedthe photos to extend their food aid to the starving workers. Thefederal government reacted immediately after the publication of thephotographs (Keene et al. 165). Political analysts would view thismove as political and as a way of influence the public opinion. Thegovernment was aware of the starving pea pickers but it needed to beprovoked in order to react. Notably, it is the responsibility of thegovernment to provide for its people. The U.S government failed toprovide for these starving workers and the photographs acted as anincentive to provoke the government. There is no doubt that thephotographs were effective in achieving their political purpose. Thespeed in which the government acted is a testament enough the imageswere effective.
Considering that racial segregation that existed in the 1930s, it isplausible to state that had the image been of a Mexican-American manor woman, it would not have elicited such a reaction. Notably, thewhites in America in this era were considered as supreme. Other racesuch as Mexicans and black Americans were held in low esteem. Mostprobably, the San Francisco News would have never publishedthe picture and the plight of the worker would have never been known.Whereas the reaction by the government was immediate, it is essentialto note that had the image been that of a Mexican man or woman, thegovernment would not have reacted as it did. In the era when thesephotographs were taken, the odd jobs such as pea picking was reservedfor the minor races such as the Mexicans and the black Americans(Keene et al. 254). Furthermore, the whites who were born in Americawere expected to lead comfortable lives. Therefore, the reaction bythe government and the sympathy that these images elicited werepredicated on this belief.
Florence Owens Thompson and her family needed supported in terms offood in order to survive in the camp. When the private pictures oftheir family were being taken, they were in support of the idea sincethey knew that would bring in the much needed support. The familyknew that the pictures would expose the kind of suffering they wereundergoing in the camp. It is, however, essential to mention that thefamily moved out of the camp after the pictures were published bymajor dailies (Keene et al. 198). This is because they were ashamedof their suffering. The pictures acted as a form of inspirationtowards the family members who worked hard and moved out of the camp.Despite the fact that the family did not want the images to elicitsympathy, it is evident that the children used the same images toraise funds for their mother’s hospital bills. In this regard, thefamily appreciated the way that images were used. Even though theimages depicted the private affairs of the family, it is notable thatthey never opposed the idea.
Keene, Jennifer D., O’Donnell, Edward and Cornell, Saul. Visionsof America. Pearson Education: Pearson, 2015. Print