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Jason Zappulla

2 28 17
Pd. 7
AP Art History Compare and Contrast #19

#117 The Horse in Motion vs. #127 The Steerage

Five paragraph essay: To what extent did photography bring about


social change?

Art has a long tradition of being used for social change, from the
Athenian Agora being used to encourage social interaction and
democratic governance, to The Stonebreakers showing the true
condition of common laborers. Photography is part of this tradition.
From its earliest beginnings, photography was able to bring about
important social change.

One example of photographys power to bring about social


change is The Horse in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge. The photo is a
series of images, put together to give the illusion of motion, that show
a horse galloping along the track. The set was originally created to see
if all four of a horses hooves come off the ground during a gallop, the
photographic set was also a precursor to moving pictures and films.
Not only have films been used to entertain, but they also have the
power to comment on social issues and bring light to important issues,
be it through fictional or non-fictional stories.

A second example of the power of photography to bring about


social change would be The Steerage by Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz took
the photo while traveling from America to Paris, and it shows the two
classes of immigrants to the United States: the wealthy immigrants on
the top, while at the bottom below the bridge, are the poorer
passengers and immigrants, giving a visual representation of class
differences and the separation of classes. The photograph was taken
during a contentious time in Americas immigration history, as
immigration restrictions on grounds such as race and intelligence were
being proposed and discussed. Ultimately, images such as The
Steerage brought to light the plight of poorer immigrants, although in
the short-term this era saw immigration restrictions such as the
Immigration Act of 1924 (which limited immigration from groups like
Eastern Europeans and Africans, and banned all Arab and Asian
immigration), over the long-term, poor immigrants like those
photographed by Stieglitz were glorified as symbols of the American
dream, and an ideal for all present immigrants to look towards.
Lastly, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange shows the power of
photography to bring about change. The picture shows a forlorn-
looking migrant worker. The picture was taken when the American
West was facing two simultaneous crises: the Great Depression (when
the U.S. experienced a massive economic downturn), and the Dust
Bowl (when poor farming practices led weakening of the soil that
devastated American farmers). This woman personified and visualized
the situation, showing the quiet hopelessness of many Americans
during this period. The photo brought attention not just to the
desperation in the American West during the Great Depression, but it
also brought attention to the plight of agricultural workers, an issue
which would be taken up by labor activists like Cesar Chavez decades
later.

From its earliest days, photography has showed itself to be a


valuable and fascinating medium. Photography can have the
tremendous power, including the power to bring about change. Photos
like Horse in Motion, The Steerage, and Migrant Mother brought
attention to important issues, and with time, shaped peoples
perceptions and led to serious social reform. While some issues are still
present in American society (for example, the treatment of Hispanic
migrant workers is still a controversial issue), photos such as these
have a large potential to change peoples opinion and lead to reform.