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The Mitchell essay

            In the essay "The Photographic Essay: Four Case Studies," writer W. Mitchell considers that when viewing an image, the viewer should interpret the image through understanding the historical specificities in various perspectives. It is imperative to comprehend meanings of photographs through learning their background. According to Mitchell, the appropriate way of reading is to link the texts and photographs through understanding their historical specificities. Mitchell explains his view of correct reading by using four case studies of photographs. "These three requirements - equality, independence, and collaboration - are not simply given by putting any text together with any set of photographs, and they are not so easily reconcilable" (Mitchell, 529). .
             The first case study is a series of photographs taken by Evans Walker titled "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" One of the pictures was taken with a middle-aged lady standing outside of her house. That lady looks very depressed and pale. As Mitchell describes, " the lines of her face, the weathered grain of the boards, the faded dress, the taut strands of her hair, the gravity of her expression all merge into a visual complex that is hauntingly beautiful and enigmatic."(Mitchell 534) However, the caption/text descriptions underneath the picture do not correspond to the picture quite well. She doesn't look happy and wealthy. The viewers all have preconceived notion about how happiness looks like. We can't tell just by looking at the pictures. The photograph is actually a depressing scene. This series of photographs was actually taken during the Great Depression in the late 1930's. If the viewer can comprehend the historical context of this photograph, he/she would be able to understand that it was really hard for people back in those times to be happy due to the Depression. In order to understand this picture, we have to place ourselves in the historical frame.

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