At the Time of the Louisville Flood (1957)- Margaret Bourke-White

This semester I am taking History of Photography. We studied a photograph by Margaret Bourke-White, which was taken in 1957. It is titled, At the Time of the Louisville Flood. In class we learned to analyze the photograph by paying attention to vibrant color contrasts, the lines that the objects in the photo make, and how the photographer manipulates and utilizes light. My professor also mentioned how this photograph has been manipulated by the photographer, Margaret Bourke. The white bags that the people are holding were not placed there by accident and the billboard is too close to the people to actually be in that location. Photographers manipulate the photograph to convey meaning. In this case the shallow depth of the billboard hints at the irony of the people standing in line for food with the quote at the top which reads, “World’s Highest Standard of Living.” This then brings us to the question, is this changing the truth or making the truth clearer? I view it as the photographer is changing the truth and manipulating how we interpret the photograph. They are making the viewer see it how they want it to be experienced. The one thing that always captures my attention is the woman in the far left. She is an uncanny resemblance of my mother. For me this is the punctum of the photograph and it is why I find it so intriguing.

Margaret Bourke-White


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