Module 2: Photographic Communication

1 Posted by - June 3, 2014 - Courses, Photography Appreciation
W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972

W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972

In this module we begin our exploration of what photographs do and how they communicate. Both photographers and viewers construct meaning by exploring the relationship of the elements in the photographic frame. Cognitive science tells us that perception is based on the relationship of objects sensed, not just objects themselves. For example, a baby next to a rattle elicits a very different reaction than a baby next to razor blade. We exploit this relational perception in art through metaphor. We combine multiple elements (“All the world’s a stage.”) to create a new meaning (identity as performance, for one interpretation). As such, photography is about creating new meaning through the relational composition of elements in the frame.

Subject Matter and Subject

The key terms for exploring the relational nature of photography are Subject Matter and Subject. Subject matter is what is physically or literally in a photograph. Subject is the meaning or overall idea that can be derived from the visual relationship of the subject matter in a photograph.

The essential nature of photographs is that they transform Subject Matter into Subject.

With these terms in mind then, the essential nature of photographs is that they transform Subject Matter into Subject. When a photographer creates a photograph, he/she isn’t just recording the items in front of them, they are capturing and communicating the meaning, memory or idea they see in those things through photographic language. We will be exploring that process in depth throughout this course.

Question: What are the Subject Matter and Subject of the photographs in this introduction? Share your thoughts on at least one photograph in the comment section below. (Note: Top photograph is Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936)

Module Content

With these ideas in mind, please read and view the following module content:

The Photographers Vision, pp. 6 – 23

Marvin Heiferman, “Photography Changes Everything”

The Genius of Photography, part 2 and 4 (video)

Featured Photographer: Edward Weston

Edward Weston, Pepper, 1930

Edward Weston, Pepper, 1930

Many of the ideas we explore in this module are epitomized by the work of Edward Weston. Read links about the photographer and his work here. While you explore his work, look at photographs like Pepper, 1930 and notice how he transforms subject matter into subject.


Read the Featured Photographer links and research photographs by the photographer. Then find and add your favorite photograph by the photographer to the Dropmark collection. In the description section, write a photographic analysis of the photograph that explains why it is an effective and masterful work using the criteria from “The Qualities of a Good Photograph” in The Photographer’s Vision. Use terms and concepts from the course in your analysis. Full Directions

Discussion Topic

Based on the information in this module, explain why “photography changes everything.” Include its most important attributes and effects in your answer. Cite specific information, using in-text citation, from the materials in this module. (200 words minimum) Also, respond to at least three (3) of classmates’ posts with additional information or perspective. Full Directions

Top Image: Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936


  • Danielle Evert

    The Subject Matter of the first photograph in this introduction (Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936) would be a mother holding an infant in her arms with two young children by her side. The Subject of this photograph, or the overall meaning that can be determined by the photograph, can be interpreted differently by each viewer. I believe the subject of this photograph would be how, no matter the challenges life may throw at you, family will always be by your side. This family is covered in dirt and is expressing their exhaustion through their facial and body language; however, I believe the mother is also showing determination to keep her family together and close. Having this photograph be in black and white also plays a role in being the Subject Matter and Subject together. I believe having bright colors in this photograph would distract from the distraught and tired reactions from the Subject Matter.

  • Amy Sailer

    In the first photograph, (Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936), the subject matter is a mother holding a baby in her arms and two other young children at her side. The subject, or overall meaning of this photograph will be different from person to person. I think the subject of this photograph is a mother who is trying to make ends meet for her family, but in the end, its family that gets you through the tough times in life. Family will always be there for you, no mater what you are going through and you can always lean on them when you need them.

  • Shannon Grossman

    Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936 has a subject matter of a mother that looks physically distressed and worried with her two young children leaning on her. The subject of the photograph could be many things. To me, it looks like this family may be living during the depression and something is happening that worries the mother and the children are also worried and leaning to their mother for support.

  • Kinsey Mace

    In the Dorothea Lange photo, Migrant Mother, the subject matter is captured by a woman who appears to be a mother with two young children leaning on her for comfort. In the photo the subject matter looks worried and in deep thought. The subject in this photo could be interpreted in different ways, the photographer could be trying to portray a lower class family struggling. The mother could be worried about providing for her family.

  • Jon-Michael Brandt

    The subject matter of the Migrant Mother is the mother with a worried look upon her face while holding a baby. The other children in the photo show concern or sadness by turning away from the photographer. The subject of the picture is to show a collective worry or sadness towards an unknown act/subject.

  • Georgia

    The subject matter of W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972 is the looks given by a mother and her son (I think..) You can see how scared they are and that they are holding onto their last ounces of hope. The subject to me is that that a mothers love can withstand all things.

  • Ryan Emanuelson

    In W. Eugene Smith’s photo with the bath the subject matter is the two people that are in the bath, while the subject is what is going on in the picture. To me I think the picture is showing what some people will do for others. Helping another person take a bath like that is probably not easy however she is helping the other person out.

  • Jessica Dorman

    Well the subject matter is the focus of
    the photo and the subject is the meaning behind it. I think the subject matter
    here in Migrant Mother is the woman holding a baby with her two sons and the
    subject is the hardship and not knowing what is going to happen to her and her children.
    The children seem to be trying to hide behind the woman or leaning on her for
    support. They all look dirty and ragged and in need of some sleep. I feel like
    Dorothea Lange was trying to portray the worry and hardship of the woman in
    regards to her children’s future.

  • Bailey

    The subject matter is the two people in the bathtub but I believe that the subject would be caring for people that cannot care for themselves. The woman holding the person in the bath is doesn’t look upset or displeased in any way and seems to take genuine concern in the wellbeing of the person in the tub.

  • Victoria Langhans

    The subject matter of the first photo is a women who appears to be deep in thought holding two young boys hiding their faces. The subject of this photo is worry directed at the unknown. For example, what is going to happen to the two boys, her, etc. I think the photograph gives off a type of sadness or grief as well. As for the bath tub picture by Eugene Smith, the subject matter is a women helping out another human being get a task done. She also has a concerned look on her face. I think the subject f this photo is family and well being struggles and the power of family. Edward Weston’s photo is very different. The subject matter in this photo is some kind of a creation, it almost looks like a kind of sculpture. We have not learned about this photo yet, but it is very interesting and looks different than the other two photos. This is the kind of photo that can mean so many things to various people. It really comes down to how we portray the image.

  • Megan Robson

    The subject matter of the first photograph in this introduction (Dorothea Lange,
    Migrant Mother, 1936) is a mother holding her baby in her arms with her
    two young children by her side. The Subject of this photograph can be
    interpreted very differently depending on how each person’s views it. I believe the
    subject of this photograph would be exhaustion. The family has dirt all over
    them and you can tell by their body language and facial expressions that they
    are tired and have nothing left in them. The mother has a look of desperation
    but at the same time a look of determination and hope to keep her family alive
    and living. The subject matter of the second photograph (W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko
    Uemura in her bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972) is a mother holding her child
    in the bathtub. I think that the subject of this photograph would be love. The
    mother has a very caring and loving look on her face. It almost looks as though
    the mother has accepted the fact that her child has a serious illness and is
    showing her child that she will be there till the end no matter what. The
    subject matter of the third photo (Edward Weston, Pepper, 1930) is
    extraordinary, unique pepper. For this photograph it’s hard to say what exactly the
    subject is, but I believe that the subject of this pepper is about life. The pepper
    has such great detail to it, if you look closely you can see all the different
    folds and curves. I think that Weston is trying to portray that everyone is
    unique and different in there own way but in the end we are still all humans.

  • Isaac Keller

    In the first photo titled Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange the subject matter appears to be a mother holding her baby with her two young children lying on her shoulder. The family appears to be dirty as their clothes are dirty and torn and the mother appears to have a worried look on her face as if she was in deep thought about something serious. The subject of this photograph appears to be that the family is poor and possibly going through the great depression. The mom has a look of worry on her face but she also appears to have a look of determination to get her family through this hard time. The subject matter in the second photo titled Tomoko Uemura in her Bath by Eugene Smith appears to be a mother holding her ill child up in the bathtub. The child appears to have a serious illness and the mother appears to be helping her child bathe because the child can not care for itself. The subject of this piece appears to be love. Specifically the love the mother has for her child. She has a calm look on her face as if she is telling her child she will always be there no matter what. In the third photo titled Pepper by Edward Weston the pepper appears to have an unusual shape as well as unusual curves and lines. The pepper in the photo does not look the same as a normal pepper. I believe the subject of this photo shows that even though the pepper appears to be different it is still the same as any other pepper.

  • Jason Straub

    In “Migrant Mother,” the subject matter is a mother holding her baby with two kids at each side of her. You can see that there is a deep meaning behind the look in the face. You can tell that the family is struggling financially by the look of worry in her face. Looking at that I see a mother who loves her mother and worries about where and how she is going to provide for her kids. You can tell that she loves her children and that her children have the same love for her by the way they hold on to her.
    In “Tomoko Uemera In Her Bath” I see a sweet and gentle mother. The Subject matter is a mother holding her baby. It’s obvious that the child is sick. The beautiful part of the photo is how the mother is holding her child. I see patience, love, and care in her expression. The way she looks at him is unconditional.
    In’ “pepper,” the subject matter is an odd looking pepper. I would have not known it was a pepper if it wasn’t for the title. There’s a lot of character and uniqueness to the look of the pepper. The photo does a good job at showing the difference of a pepper.

  • Ashley Kirkman

    Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange the subject matter is a mother holding her baby with her children at her side. This image’s subject is broken down to express relationships, dependency, strength, trust and what I believe the overall point of the photo is family. Clearly from the ware of the clothing and smut on faces, body language of the childeren leaning to their mother for comfort. Something is uneasy in their lives and the strengh of family shines through this photo, more importantly the strength of motherhood.

    The, Pepper photo reminds me of the silly images shrinks hold up to play on what a person chooses to see. The subject is a pepper, it makes me wonder about Edward Weston’s style is what he is really trying to express. Is it decay, is it looking to express the beauty of something being deformed? There are so many ways the subject could be taken in this photo. However, isn’t that part of the experience?

  • Jessica Holmberg

    In the photo titled “Migrant Mother,” the subject matter is a women hold a baby with two other children standing by her sides. We assume by the way they are standing and the title of the photo that this is a photo of a mother and her children. The subject matter is about hardships, longing, and suffering. You can see that they are covered in dirt and their clothes are more like rags. This shows that they are going through a difficult time and the women has a strong sense of longing in her eyes. I also notice that she has many wrinkles and worry lines on her forehead. They have clearly been through a lot and they children cling to her for safety and support.

    In “Tomoko Uemera In Her Bath,” the subject matter is mother holding her child in the bath. The child looks to be rather ill. The subject is unconditional love. She looks very caring and kind, like no matter what is going on with her child, she will be there to care for her.

    In “Pepper,” the subject matter seems to be a rather odd looking pepper. The pepper in this photo does not look like peppers normally do so if it weren’t for the title, I probably wouldn’t have known that is what was photographed. I believe the subject of this photo is about unique beauty. We all think we know what a pepper looks like, however, this photographer chose to photograph a rather deformed looking pepper to show that there can be ones that stand out among the rest.

  • Katie Elberson

    In Dorothea Lange’s,Migrant Mother (1936) the Subject Matter is
    obviously the women cradling her infant child, while her other two children are
    laying their heads on her shoulder. We are lead to believe that because there
    is only one woman in the picture that she is indeed the Migrant Mother. The Subject of the photography can be describe as struggle. Based on my research, the Migrant
    Mother Photography is an iconic symbol of the Great Depression and this
    leads us to assume that the women is struggling to make ends meet in order to
    not only take care of herself, but her young children as well. She is also
    alone, suggesting that the father of the children is not present to help her in
    her efforts to survive. However, the photography also depicts a feeling of
    hope. The women is clearly worn and tired based on the raggedness of her
    clothes and the expression on her face, yet she is looking on. She is looking
    forward to the future. This suggests that this image is supposed to say: “Hey,
    I know things are hard right now, and I know you feel like giving up, but there
    is an end in sight.”

  • Wycliff Onyango

    Dorothea Lange’s photography the subject matter is the mother and her three children. The main idea is the mothers worrying look, the two boys who are hiding their faces and the helpless baby the mother is carrying. From the why the young boys are hiding their faces shows the struggle they are going through due to the famine. The subject can further be elaborate by the mother facial expression and the baby’s face.

  • Tawonda Burks

    In the Tomoko Uemura’s photo the subject matter is the caretaker and the ill child. The focus or subject of this photo is to show how the caretaker is caring for the ill child by giving him/her a bath. The look in the caretaker’s eyes shows worry as she holds him/her gently in the water. The photo also shows how fragile the child is along with his facial expressions which suggest he/she is extremely vulnerable and is dependent upon the caretaker.

  • Samantha Scholler

    In Dorothea Lange’s photo of the “Migrant Mother” (1936) the subject matter would be a mother trying to care for her baby and two children. The subject would be that they are going through some sort of struggle. The mother has a worried look on her face, and the two older children don’t show their faces at all. The baby in the picture looks like it hasn’t had a bath in recent days showing that they might not have clean water. Although everyone looks sad, the mother shows a small sign of hope. Also another thing I noticed was that the father isn’t pictured, which could mean he either has passed on due to the struggle, or is no longer part of the family.

  • Kayla Severson

    In the first photograph, “Migrant Mother” (1936) by Dorothea Lange, the subject matter is a mother with a baby and two children. The subject would be they are going through a hard time. They all look as if they haven’t been able to bathe recently. They all have messy hair, ratty clothing and the baby has dirt on his or her face. Also, the mother looks worried and the two boys are hiding their faces from the camera while they lean on their mother. There is no father pictured so it could be the mother is the only support for the family and why they are struggling so much.

  • Samantha Stetzer

    “Tomoko Uemura in her bath” by W. Eugene Smith is a photo of a caretaker holding an ailing person in a pool of water, which is the subject matter of the photograph. The subject of the photo is much deeper than that because it displays the common bond reliance all of mankind has on one another. The ailing person relies of the caretaker to keep them afloat, as her limbs seem to be failing. The ailing person relies on the caretaker for hope and to keep them “floating” in the water of what life has given them. But if the ailing person had not been born or had passed away a long while ago, the caretaker’s purpose might be completely different, or maybe not even as important. He/she relies not the ailing person to give a sense of purpose to his/her life. We all are either the ailing person or the caretaker in one way or another throughout life, and we can switch roles. Sometimes we need people to take care of us, and sometimes we offer ourselves to keep the ailing person afloat. If the world were full of ailing people, who would keep us floating, and likewise, if the world was full of caretakers, who would we take care of?

  • Cassie Stendal

    “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange clearly features a mother and her three children as the subject matter. Behind the small family is the fabric of a tent or some other
    outdoor shelter. The faces of the children are turned away, taking comfort in
    the shoulder of their mother. The subject however is a look into the lives of
    those affected by the Great Depression. When the photograph was taken in 1936,
    the Depression was taking away the jobs and hope of many workers and families
    like this one. Tattered clothes and the forlorn expression on the mother’s face
    hints at the stress this family is experiencing. As the viewers of the photo,
    we are forced to wonder what became of this small family. Were they able to
    support themselves? Did the youngest child survive to his first birthday?

  • Nicole Remer

    The photo displayed above is “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange. The photo’s subject matter is a mother and her three children surrounding her. They all seem to be wearing tattered clothing, and in some type of shelter. The subject of this photo displays how thousands of families suffered through the Great Depression. This photo was taken in 1936, which was during the heat of the Depression. Many families had lost their jobs already, and were living with the consequences of it. Seeing the two children with their heads turned towards their mother, the viewer can see how they are looking in their mother for comfort and nurture during this difficult time.

  • Leah Youngblood

    The photo by W. Eugene Smith titled “Tomoko Uemura in her bath” shows a women bathing a disabled person which may be family to the women or even a child which is the subject matter. The subject of this photo is much more detailed and can be different for everyone. I see the role of human taking care of each other and being caregivers for those who are not able to help themselves. As a nursing student, I know how the caregiver feels. They feel like it is there job to take care of those who are unable to take care of themselves and in this photo we see that the disabled person is staying afloat by the women. The women has a vulnerable life in her arms and she cares for that person instead of giving up. The look on the women’s face shows happiness and pride. The disabled individual has clearly changed her life and we are able to see that but the women’s face shows us that it’s not a bad thing, and that she is proud to be holding this individual. We all care for people at some point in our lives, whether it’s ourselves or others. When children are born they rely on caretakers and elders also rely sometimes on caretakers. We all at some point relied on someone to take care of us.

  • Stuart Schindler

    The first photo on the page above by Dorothea Lange is
    titled “Migrant Mother”. It was taken in 1936 during the height of the Great
    Depression. The subject matter of the photo is Florence Owens Thompson, 32,
    sitting while cradling an infant in her lap. Her two other children are at her
    side, hiding their faces from the camera. The mother and her children wear worn
    clothing, although it appears clean overall. This photo’s subject is the struggle
    of a single mother during the Great Depression. The mother protects her baby by
    cradling it safely in her lap while her other two children cling next to her
    seeking protection and help from the callous world that they live in. Florence,
    the mother, is only 32 years old although work and the stress of supporting her
    family seems to have aged her well into her forties. She gazes into the
    distance with a worried look, not in a way that she is looking for hope or
    better times, but as if she is looking for an existence filled with less

  • Jonathan Moore

    The photograph “Tomoko Uemura in her bath” by W. Eugene Smith, appears to be a much older woman presumably a mother or grand mother bathing her child or grand child. We can also see from the photograph that the younger woman is severely deformed, and clearly needs the help of a family member to assist her and perform regular day to day tasks. This picture was taken in a traditional Japanese bath in 1972. W. Eugene Smith was attempting to illustrate and shed light on the problems those afflicted with the Minamata disease. It sends a very powerful message and resonates especially with parents. A this could be your child so let us make sure this never happens again message. It shows how humans through the vehicle of being a corporation can brush their humanity aside in search of larger profit margins and the ones who ultimately suffer from their corner cutting.

  • Andrea Olson

    Dorthea Lange captures amazing detail in Migrant Mother this legendary picture of a mother and her three terrified children during the Great Depression in 1936. The mother doesn’t appear to be attempting to really comfort her children, even though her children are taking refuge and comfort in her, shielding themselves from the camera. The mother looks wary, beaten down, and on her last hope. The subject matter is simple and easy to depict: two young children turn towards their mother, one infant is in her arms, and the downtrodden mother looks away. However, the subject is a little more emotional. The audience is free to wonder and imagine the struggles the woman and her family have been through; what has made their clothing so tattered and faces so worrisome; where the husband or father figure is. Now, nearly eighty years later, it makes me wonder if the family made it out alright, if the youngest child survived to become an elderly person in todays age, and what may have happened to the families possessions and land. Although the group depicted in this photograph were undoubtedly going through rough times, the themes of family, trust, and fear are still very apparent.

  • Jessica McCoy

    In the photograph “Migrant Mother” by Dorthea Lange there is much detail captured that helps show the struggles of families in 1936 during The Great Depression. The subject matter of the picture is the woman captured is a mother who is surrounded by her two children and holding her baby. Two of the children are looking away from the photo and the baby’s face is hard to see. The subject of the picture digs further into the emotional aspect of the Great Depression. It shows the battle that families especially single mothers, experienced to provide for their families and to survive. The old, tattered clothing that they are wearing express the money struggles that families had during this time period. The mother has a worried and concerned look on her face in the picture showing the concern that families had for their families and the conditions that they were living in. These different characteristics help to describe the strong emotions of the Great Depression and the hard times that many families faced.

    In the photograph Tomoko Uemura in her bath” by W. Eugene Smith the picture shows a woman holding a child who appears to have some short of developmental disability in a bath. The subject matter of the picture is the woman, who may be the mother, holding a younger aged disabled child. The mother appears to be bathing the child in the picture. The subject of the photograph is the care taking skills that are so important in our lives and the need to help those who are not able to complete daily living skills on their own. The woman must help the child bathe so that they can experience cleanliness even without the ability to do the specific task by themselves. This photograph shows the importance of caretakers because of the help that they provide for individuals who are not able to do the things themselves due to different disabilities. As a student majoring in Therapeutic Recreation, this picture describes many challenges that individuals who I will be working with face everyday. The child would not have an adequate lifestyle without the care taking skills from the mother.

  • Jason Straub

    In “Migrant Mother,” the subject matter is obvious. We have a mother who is with her two children. We can see that the mother has a worried look on her face. She, along with the children, are also dirty. That tells me that they are struggling. After reading more about the photo I was able to see more of the subject of the photo. This is a mother who is struggling to provide for her children during the great depression. There are many emotions in the face. We can see the worry and fear she has in her face, but it’s also obvious that it’s her kids that are keeping her going.

  • Nicole Haedtke

    The subject matter of “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange is the migrant women staring into the distance and two of her children resting on her shoulders with one in her arms. Looking deeper into the subject of the picture we know that this was taken during the Great Depression. We can see by the photo that they are dirty and although they
    are clothed it is not the best material. The mother wears a look of concern
    while the children appear to be exhausted. This photo does an immaculate job of
    showing the struggles of a poor single parent family during this time. The look
    of worry that the mother seems to have is due to the concern of their next meal
    or how she is going to adequately care for her children.

    • jbowey

      Thanks Nicole for leading off this class discussion.

  • Kylynn Wolfe

    In this photo, we see a mother with her 3 children, but if we look deeper, we can see and infer much more. The mother seems to be looking off into the distance with deep worry lines etched into her face. The date the photo was taken tells us the time frame is during the Great Depression. This gives us some insight into what her worries may be about. Her children cling to her, feeding off of her strength during this hard time. The look to her for support to help them survive.

  • The Subject Matter: in the two photographs above: “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange, and Tomoko Uemura in her bath, would be the children/child with their or in Tomoko’s case her mother. In each photo you see a mother’s deep love for her child. In “Migrant Mother” the mother looks onward with a deeply troublesome face while her children cling to her for what seems to be comfort during that time. The photograph of Tomoko’s mother bathing her gives the viewer a notion that a mother’s love and care is unconditional. While her daughter looks to have some sort of disease she is her daughters life support. In each photo I think it is very clear that the subject is circled around the love and strength of a mother for her children even during the hardest of times.

  • kacey brausen

    In the Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange the subject matter is the women who is starring off into the distance with two children leaning on her and one in her arms. They look like they are struggling because of the torn and dirty clothes. The women’s face is also worried or fearful looking which is another reason for why I believe they are struggling. If we look deeper into the photograph we see that it was captured during the Great Depression, which could be the reason the women looks worried or scared. She is most likely trying to care for these children with little money and supplies and these children are looking to her for help and support but also comforting her because they can also tell how worried she is.

  • Samantha Schierman

    The photograph “Migrant
    Mother” by Dorthea Lange in 1936 contains a subject matter but also from that
    subject matter, it creates the actual subject. The subject matter being the
    women and two children in the women’s arms. The date the photograph was taken
    adds to the subject because the audience would then realize this is pictured
    during the United States’ Great Depression. From that, the subject is based
    mostly off emotions. There is worry in the mother’s eyes and the heads turned
    from the children exemplify fear of the future. These emotions paired with the
    knowledge of the Great Depression create the subject. This photograph can
    influence audience at the time of the great depression because it illustrates
    the emotions those who experienced the great depression have had. It can also
    help audiences who have not been through the great depression relate to those
    who have and the history of the US. It is clear that this photograph’s subject
    can be influential to all audiences.

  • Pang Carter

    The subject matter in the Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange is the family. The mother and her two children. They look sad and lonely, like they don’t have anywhere to go or food to eat. It looks like she is at the end of the road and nowhere to turn to but also like she has these 2 kids who depend on her and rely on her for their well being. With her hand rested on her legs it seems like she’s defeated and almost like she failed as a mother.

  • ejemen aimienwauu

    Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936

    The black and white effect of the image
    makes you wonder if there is a deeper meaning to this image. This effect makes
    you wonder the story behind the image. The subject matter of this photo is a
    mother and her three children. This photograph was taken during the United
    States’ great depression; this fact contributes to the subject of the photo.
    Dorothea Lange captured the worry in this mother’s eyes and the fear in the
    posture of her children. The photo shows hardship as the children are wearing
    tattered clothes and their mother too. Her children are resting on her for support
    and looking to her for strength. I can see the worry of her face and the fear
    in the way her two children standing turn their backs to the camera. She looks
    like she has hope in the future, the way she looks at the air just like she is
    waiting for something. This photo tries to convey the message of the emotions
    the mother and her children were feeling. It helps us sympathize with her and
    her children especially her baby.

  • Clayton Fox

    The photo “Migrant Mother” displays a mother with her two children slouching on her shoulders as she cradles her baby in her hand. They are all covered in cloth and have short hair cuts. This is the subject matter, however the subject tells a much more in depth story. Given the time period the great depression, the picture begins to tell a story. You can see the despair on the mother’s face. The children’s hands look dirty and they appear tired and hungry. This photograph captures a moment in time for this troubled mother and her children. This is an excellent example of a picture that stirs up meaning, memories, and emotions.

    • Ashley

      I saw the same story, the photo shows for this mother and children what their The Great Depression was. I have read other comments about mystery and I have to disagree. They look hungry and dirty. Maybe I took this photo to literal, but I found that yes, this photo stirs up emotions. In the right way though and with a little research I found that it also created and showed a need ending in a result of rescue. Pretty powerful moment really.

  • Alex Plank

    This photo “Migrant Mother” shows a seemingly exhausted mother, with her two children leaning on her shoulders, and her baby in her arms. You can see how exhausted this woman is by her facial expression and body language. This kind of picture is full of mystery, making one wonder more about the story behind the photo itself. The subject matter of this photograph seems to be that related to family. It is clear that this woman is worrisome. This photograph does a wonderful job of depicting the pure emotion involved with this subject.

  • jbowey

    Class, as you think about and identify the subject, try to describe it in your posts.

  • Ashley

    Worn, with a look of desperation as two children burrow their faces into a mother’s shoulders. It’s almost as if the look of desperation becomes acceptance as I look back from the hidden faces of the children to the mother again. The subject matter is the mother and the children. The subject is the deepest and longest-lasting economic downturn in the history of the western industrialized world: The Great Depression. (The History Channel) “Migrant Mother” is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. However, there is a happy ending here. Dorothea Lange returned from the camp where this photo was shot and arranged for 20,000 lbs. of food to be sent to the camp. A photograph was captured and within a single frame communicated a need and created action. (

  • Bader Albalawi

    The subject matter in Tomoko Uemura in her bath is: a child in her mother’s lap taking a bath in a traditional Japanese bathroom. The picture is in black and white. The subject is: to put the disease and the daughter’s suffering under the spotlight. Also: to show the terrible effects of the diseases on the daughter’s mentality and physicality. The photograph is showing a very privet moment for both the daughter and the mother to catch the world’s attention to the disease that is caused by mercury poisoning from a company called Chisso. The mother is showing tremendous affection as she looks at her daughter. Information about the photo is taken from: (

  • Hannah Herrera

    The subject matter of the Migrant Mother is a mother and her three children. They are all tired and dirty looking, and the mother has a worried look on her face. The subject of the photograph is how much mothers worry about the well-being of their children. How worried the mother in the photo is about their destitute circumstances, and whether or not she will be able to feed and care for her children.
    In the photo, Tomoko Uemura in her bath, a mother can be seen giving her seemingly incapacitated grown daughter a bath in a large pool of water. The mother can be seen looking lovingly at the face of her daughter while she bathes her. That is the subject matter of the photo. The subject is of just how endless a mothers love can be. What a mother is willing to do and to what lengths they will go to for their children no matter how old their children are.

  • Breanna Huening

    The photograph of the “Migrant Mother” has a subject matter of a run down or “dirty” looking mother with her three children all around her. The children also look dirty and the two older children aren’t looking at the photo. The baby’s face is also extremely dirty and the all of the children’s clothing are worn and torn. The mother’s face and body language looks like she is in stress. The subject of the photograph may show the troubles that the family is facing. The mother may be a single mother of three small children and may be having a hard time caring and providing for her family. The gloominess of the photograph shows that the family may be struggling finically and emotionally. The photograph is extremely powerful and emotional. Overall the photograph does a great way to show the sadness and struggles that the family is enduring.

  • Tyler Mohr

    What makes Tomoko Uemura in her bath such a good photo is just how deep it works on an emotional level. The subject matter is a caretaker bathing her patient and it is clear through the expression on the caretakers face just how deeply she cares for the person she is bathing. There seems almost a connection between the two and the idea of this near helpless patient relying solely and trusting in completely in their caretaker is a really powerful idea. The caretaker is literally holding the patients life in her hands and there is no greater bond than that. That is what makes this such a moving and powerful photograph.

  • Mari Dwyer

    One of the more known photos taken during the Great Depression is “Migrant Mother” taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936. The main subject of this photo is a family that is tired. This is easy to see just by looking at the two children. Without seeing the mother’s face if it was just the two children hiding leaning onto someone for support that alone could should the defeat. The mother’s face though is powerful and draws the attention of the viewer. Her eyes seem to be searching ahead thinking a better future will present itself to her family soon while her wrinkles of worry on her forehead show the doubt and loss of hope the Great Depression bestowed on many people. Her worry for her family is all over her face along with pure exhaustion and as always she is protecting her children from the camera as all mothers try to protect their children. This photo is known for a reason it shows perfectly the struggle many families went through during the Great Depression.

  • Hannah McGlone

    The subject matter in the first photograph “Mother Migrant” taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 is the mother and her children. I think the subject of this photograph is showing how hard things have become because of the Great Depression. Also it shows agony, stress and helplessness. The way the mother is looking tired and worn down is where you get the pain and stress from. On top of that you have the children clinging to her, therefore getting a sense of helplessness.

  • Rachel Boehmke

    The first photograph, “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange in 1936, has a subject matter of a mother and her children, most likely living through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, if the date is any indication. The subject itself is one of worry, stress and exhaustion, seen in the expression on her face, through the placement of her hand, as well as the children clinging to her, turned away from the camera.

  • sydney croft

    The photograph “Mother Migrant” was taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 during the time of the Great Depression. The subject matter of the photograph is a mother and her three children. The mother and children appear to be very dirty, and have on worn, dirty clothes. The children hide their faces while leaning on their mother, while the mother holds her baby. The subject of the photograph is how hard it is to exist in a time like the Great depression. The mother does not stare directly into the camera, but instead looks off into another direction. Her eyes look so worried as if she does not know how she is going to take care of her three children by herself. Her body language shows that she is exhausted, they way she does not even pay attention to her two children leaning on her shoulders and the way she is holding her baby, and her head in the palm of her hand. This photograph shows the struggle and exhaustion that many people and families went through during the Great Depression.In W. Eugene Smith’s photograph of “Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath” the subject matter seems to be a woman who may be the mother holding a disabled child. The woman is giving the disabled child a bath in a traditional Japanese bath. The woman is looking down at the child with so much love and acceptance. The subject of this photograph is to make people aware of the disease that the child has and that we need to accept and help those who can not help themselves. Edward Weston’s “Pepper” is an abstract photograph. It has a subject matter of a pepper that looks twisted and a little beaten up. The subject of the photograph is what the view wants it to be, because everyone who views this photograph will have a different meaning for it.

  • Jade Spaulding

    “Migrant Mother” taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 was taken during the Great Depression. The subject matter of the photograph shows a struggling mother with her two children. They are all dirty with torn mismatched clothing. The subject of “Migrant Mother” is the despair families went through during the Great Depression. The photograph is expressing how difficult it was to raise a family and to keep their basic needs met during that time.

  • Taylor Nyman

    The first photograph shown in this series of photos is a very popular and well known photo, “Migrant Mother”. This photo is about a mother who works at a Pea pickers camp in California during the Great Depression. This photograph captures the emotion of fright and defeat as this mother endures work to feed her children and trying to fend for herself as well. While feeling scared of what is to come she is feeling victimized by her status of class as she several children, dirty clothes and works at a pea picker camp. Her child to her right understands the circumstances as you can see him leaning on her shoulder for support in his time of fear. The mother acts as a strong rock for the whole family during the struggles.

  • Marissa Williams

    “Migrant Mother” was a photo taken during the Great Depression. The subject matter of this photograph is a mother and her two children, while the subject is the struggle and hardship all families had to go through during the Great Depression. I feel that people can truly connect with the mother when they see the look of despair on her face knowing she cannot help her children leaning on her shoulder.

  • Melody Vang

    W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her bath, Minamata, Japan, 1972
    The subject matter is a woman bathing and holding a child in her arms. The subject is the expression of the woman’s face and the child that she is holding in her arms. This photograph expresses deep emotions and thoughts that can be viewed differently depending on the viewer. To me it expresses deep pain, and love for the child. It is sad yet so beautiful in a way indescribable.

  • Sydney

    “Migrant Mother” is a very powerful photograph, even if you don’t know the context and the history behind it. The observer can really feel emotions just by looking at the face of the woman, and also by not seeing the faces of the children. The photograph expresses deep emotion and pain.

  • Ben Barner

    “Migrant Mother” depicts a mother during the Great Depression and gives insight into the struggles folks endured during that time. The mother in the photograph is the subject matter. The expression on her face represents the struggle and despair that accompany the era in which the photo was taken.

  • Brandon Reutzel

    “Migrant Mother” focus is on the mother but the true story is told through the children clenching her. It definitely tells a difficult story just by looking at the mothers emotions but I feel the children have a more emotional state. Without knowing who they are or how they got to where they are, the photograph captures the deep turmoil the family has to deal with especially having the single mother as a way to view the migrants.

  • Jack Vasko

    “Migrant Mother” depicts the traumatic scene that the Great Depression brought to the 1930’s. The subject matter is a mother holding on to the most valuable things in her life and not knowing what to do next. You see them being dirty, confused and sad; three things that were very characteristic of the great depression too. The photographer brought the struggles of poverty out into the subject. The reality of what is happening in the everyday lives of the people that were effected the most, is really shown in this photo.

  • Noah Loos

    “Migrant Mother” is a great example of a photograph that perfectly depicts the setting in which it was taken. This picture was taken during The Great Depression, and you can almost sense that solely by looking at the picture. It shows a woman, sad and distraught, staring off in the distance with her children hiding their heads into her. They look somewhat dirty and poorly clothed, showing the rawness of events that were occurring at the time. This is an accurate description of how most people might’ve looked/felt during the depression. You can almost feel the woman’s stress and discomfort through the photograph.

  • Doug Simons

    In “Migrant Mother” the subject matter is the mother sitting with there with her two young children clinging to her. The subject matter or the idea that this is communicated is great poverty and hunger, The mother sits there grief stricken children clinging to her desperately, probably because she is literally the only thing or person they have, full of despair and hopeless.

  • Eric Frazier

    W. Eugene Smith, Tomoko Uemura in her bath,
    Minamata, Japan, 1972 is part of an photographic essay about the mercury
    poisoning in a Japanese city first discovered in 1956 that claimed thousands of
    lives The photo is of a mother, Ryoko Uemura bathing her daughter struck
    by the disease Minamata, a neurological disease caused by mercury poisoning. The
    subject matter (not knowing the history) is a mother giving a bath to her
    ailing child. The subject transforms into the undying love this mother has for
    her sick child and the sickness of that child. It is as if the mother only sees
    the child and not sickness.

  • Amanda Boss

    In “Migrant Mother” the subject matter is the two children with their faces buried into their mother’s shoulders. The subject of the photograph is the struggle that the mother is facing to care for her children during the Great Depression. This concern can be seen on the mother’s face. Also, when analyzing this photograph you can see that the mother’s and children’s clothes are dirty. As well as the fact that the mother appears to be slightly under weight.

  • Pingback: Tracy Mckay()

  • Pingback: Ivon Gregory()