Comparing Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion

Comparing Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion

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Comparing Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion

The Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929 and lasted for the next decade, was a time of desperation and disorientation in America. In an effort to bring the country back on its feet, President Roosevelt initiated the Farm Security Administration (FSA) project. Photographers were hired and sent across the United States to document Americans living in poverty, and Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans were two of those photographers that were sent out. Along with their partners Paul S. Taylor and James Agee they started their projects which were approached through two different methods. Agee and Evans project Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Lange and Taylor’s project An American exodus: A Record of Human Erosion, are two similar, though different types of work. Both projects are of the poor tenant farmers in the south and the sharecroppers living during the Great Depression during the 1930s. The first difference I noticed is the way the pictures are presented in the two projects. By this I mean how they are taken and how Evans and Lange chose which ones that were to be included in the books. A second difference is that Agee and Taylor had two different writing techniques and these are the biggest differences between the two books.
Despite the similarities in the two texts presented by the authors and photographers, their work is presented in two various ways. Agee and Evans project was done after living with three tenant families and Evans photographs are completely separate from Agees text. There are not any captions or names and they do not tell us where the photos are taken or who the people in the pictures are. Lange and Taylor’s project on the other hand is written in a way that helps us read the photographs and it is easier to see the connections between the text and pictures. The captions underneath the photos are based on words formulated by the people in the picture. However, the photos that do not have any people in them still have captions, but in this case we can assume that someone has told the photographer or author what to write for each photo. By this method the true meaning of how the turmoil during this period affected the people in question is more precisely illustrated because it includes the words uttered by the people thems...


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...f it hurts you, be glad of it. As near as you will ever get, you are inside the music; not only inside it, you are it; your body is no longer your shape and substance, it is the shape and substance of the music.” (101) Here the structure of the text is visible, but to me it becomes messy and confusing. I feel he tries to say more than is needed and the meaning behind the words becomes tedious.
In conclusion, all though the projects of the authors and photographers are very similar they are very different as well. The only common element the two books contain is the depictions of the people during the Great Depression. They both try to illustrate the conditions during this time, but that’s were the similarities end. As mentioned earlier, the difference lies in the how the text is written and the methods chosen to present the pictures. I feel that Lange’s and Taylor’s book is a more accurate presentation of the Great Depression than the book written by Agee and Evans is. Agee and Evans’s book seems to be more of a depiction of how they perceived the Great Depression rather than how it really was. Therefore, I feel their project is more of an “art-piece” rather than a documentary.

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