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Photographed Immigrants in the United States

As the United States and the rest of the Western world entered the twentieth century, immense industrialization occurred. This industrialization created more job opportunities for a whole lot of people. One of those land of great opportunities was the United States—and is still quite true to this date. During the early twentieth century, the United States opened up to immigrants who wanted to start over with a new life away from their respective countries.

These immigrants mostly came from the European continent which was quite surprising since there were many countries in Europe that were experiencing industrialization as well. However, these immigrants mostly came from the smaller players in the European continent—those who cannot simply compete with the European powerhouses like Great Britain, France, and Germany. So, they decided to move to the United States in search of a new job, and a new life. The immigrants would enter the United States through New York’s Ellis island.

One could see them entering the docks by the thousands. A school teacher by the name of Lewis Hine wanted to witness and take photographed evidences of this phenomenon, going to Ellis island to see for himself. He did not have any agenda in mind, nor did he have a specific idea of what to photograph. All he did was take pictures of these people, as they entered the United States; like a tourist, curious of what is currently occurring. After his observation, he concluded that many people believed that these European immigrants were refugees who were seeking shelter.

However, he did not see them as refugees, but only immigrants who were searching for a better job and a better life. Lewis Hine was one of the photographers who developed the study of Social Documentary. In Social Documentary, a documenter assumes a political position but would not lead himself or herself to a political conclusion, which the likes of propaganda would aim to do. It simply presents the situation as it is, rather than distort it in order to create an impact towards a specific audience. Waiting to Have Passports Checked

The first photograph was originally entitled as “Waiting to have passports checked”, which was taken by Lewis Hine. He did not wish to convey a specific political or social impact towards an audience. Rather, he wanted people to see how immigrants enter through the docks of Ellis island, and what they experience upon entering through Ellis island. By the name of the title, it is pretty obvious what occurs at this phase of their migration towards the United States; this is still quite evident to this date. Lewis Hine did not have any political agenda to convey through the use of this photograph.

He took the pictures using a neutral perspective, as there is no such political point of view to cover such a phenomenal sight. Even if there was, he still wanted to remain on a neutral ground because it may cause him and the immigrants trouble. What would amaze people was that Hine lined up with these immigrants, taking part with them on their migration endeavor while taking photographs of them. He did not hide his intentions towards them, as the photograph would suggest; people were looking at him while he was taking pictures. The immigrants also did not feel awkward being taken pictures of.

They were immensely focused on the fact to get their passports checked and enter the United States as soon as possible in order to get more job opportunities than the ones arriving later than them. The original title of the photograph had no political agendas hidden under its covers. It just accurately describes what the photographer and his camera lens was witnessing. However, the succeeding title “Climbing in to America” signified a prejudice view towards the immigrants. It obviously has a political viewpoint that it wanted to point out or share towards the public, which was mainly about these immigrants.

The distortion of the original title towards the more socially and politically exaggerated title created a different context and idea about the picture, for the public to accept. This created the ideas about immigrants as refugees seeking shelter under the arms of the United States. This new title promoted that America was indeed loving and powerful. From an Immigrant’s Point of View The second photograph showed immigrants aboard a ship, leaving the United States and most likely sailing towards the European continent.

Surprisingly, the photograph was taken from an immigrant’s point of view using his camera to capture the image. Obviously, he went on the ship’s deck in order to have a better view of what was occurring, for him to photograph; probably, he would show it to his relatives and friends in his hometown. The photograph showed immigrants leaving the United States. There may be a lot of reasons involved in their departure from this great land of opportunity during the twentieth century. It may be for the reason that their nations were recalling them in preparation for the World War—that may occur within the next few years.

It may also be for economic reasons like failing to land a job within the United States which forced them to return instead, or discovering that it was just all hype and their home country provided more opportunities. It may also be for familial reasons, as they missed their homelands. The photographer’s position on top of the deck and taking pictures of the immigrants below the deck may suggest that there is a socio-economic difference between the photographer and his “subjects”. It may be suggested that the photographer was a class or few classes higher than the immigrants below.

The photograph suggested that the photographer was looking down on these immigrants because he was part of a higher class than them. Conclusions Photographs are evidences of what occurred in the past and also acts as windows to reality. These two photographs suggested a reality that occurred during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The process of social documentary do not involve the upholding of a political viewpoint and, unlike propaganda, does not suggest that people should follow such a viewpoint.

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