United States, 1937. In the middle of the Great Depression, 22-year-old photographer John Clark is brought in by the Farm Security Administration to document the calamitous conditions of the Dust Bowl in the central and southern states, in order to bring the farmers’ plight to the public eye. When he starts working through his shooting script, however, he finds his subjects to be unreceptive. What good are a couple of photos against relentless and deadly dust storms? The more he shoots, the more John discovers the awful extent of their struggles, coming to question his own role and responsibilities in this tragedy sweeping through the center of the country.
Absolutely stunning artwork, thoroughly researched. I wish the story had been a little richer to go with it — I would have liked a little more time spent with Betty and Cliff, more interactions, to build such a bond. The focus of the story — the ethics and value of documentary photography — felt a bit shallow. I’d have been more interested in further exploring the photographer’s relationship with his family and how he feels seeing these families. It’s a challenge to convey historical details without falling to stereotype or inserting modern interpretations based on hindsight, and I thought the interactions with the agency suffered there, though I understand the need for efficiency in storytelling.
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