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A Virtual Analysis of a Harlem Family 1967, a Painting by Gordon Park

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By simplification, a visual analysis is the type of analysis that gives an address on the artwork’s formal elements. Typically, these elements may include color, size, frame, and line among many others. Additionally, it could also address historical context of the image or interprets its meaning to the readers. As such, in Gordon Park’s photograph titled “A Harlem Family 1967” a poor woman holding her son is seen moving with her husband with their daughter moving beside them (Davies). The Gordon Park’s Foundation aimed at illustrating searing poverty in the United States. Furthermore, it narrates a certain family at a specific moment in the American history.

In the image, the message communicated is the poor state of New York. The streets were poorly developed and the vehicle seemed to be exhausted signifying poor living conditions (Davies.) The boy held by her mother seemed so needy and tired of the life in New York. Through framing, color, line, composition, and focus of many other elements, the essay aims at signifying how poverty stroke the entire New York City in 1967. (Davies)

In this image, the first sight of it gives some emotional background to poverty at the back of the mind. The aspects of helpless couples and children in the picture alongside with streets having the poor infrastructure in the United States derives us to poverty in the country. From some additional research reveals that the children slept in rugs and failed to go to school simply because they did not have winter clothes. Gordon Park documented as a section of 1968 Life magazine photo essay gave rise to Gordon’s contract to Harlem Family 1967 (Davies).

Its historical context is based on the dire living conditions of the Fontenelles, a needy African-American in the late 1960s (Steidl). It is contained in the 7-month display at “The Studio Museum” in Harlem (Steidl). Some interesting features about the image include the ancient vehicles that were used in the period, also the deserted streets has some more meaning about the theme of poverty.

The photographer used several visual elements in this image in the effort to clarify the theme. The black and white color was a sign of poor ancient times when the technological advances had not yet been introduced in the era. Normally, black and white illustrate the days of darkness when everything was still poorly developed. Additionally, the lines in the image have been well developed to create a motion in the viewer’s mind. Moreover, the photographer identified both position and direction through the use of line element. What’s more, the image has the shapes and sizes coming up courtesy of the use of lines.

Gordon’s clever composition of black and white image juxtaposed against the vivid strokes of the streets and buildings in the effort to derive the idea of poverty. It leaves viewers with the urge to check on more and more of Harlem’s poverty in 1967 (Steidl). A visual analysis of photographic materials would be incomplete without analyzing framing in the image. In the image provided by Gordon, frames from form tall buildings help the viewer to get an attention on the desertedness and emptiness of streets to signify poverty in New York (Steidl).

Furthermore, using frames creates some focus on the family in the image. You can picture out the situation where the four family members had been placed on the same level as the surrounding buildings and other objects. That would make the viewer give more focus to the buildings more than the people. Also, focus gives some makes the viewers check more on the poverty in the New York. The focus on the poor infrastructure on the streets as well as the focus on the ancient vehicles gives a conclusion of poverty in New York (Steidl).

In conclusion, several elements have been used in the image to give the main idea and theme of poverty as the key focus. Arguably, the emotional state of the family can be seen in the image through the efforts made by the photographer. Gordon chose the image as it illustrated poor infrastructure in the city. Also, the vehicle beside the road is known to have been of ancient times when the technology had not been advanced yet. As such, the essay has covered the majority of elements displayed to signify poverty.

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A Virtual Analysis of A Harlem Family 1967, a Painting by Gordon Park. (2018, October 17). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“A Virtual Analysis of A Harlem Family 1967, a Painting by Gordon Park.” GradesFixer, 17 Oct. 2018,
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