This picture shows a number of African-Americans queuing. Their line extends from one edge of the photograph to the other suggesting a long queue. The men and women are wearing coats suggestive of the fashion during the early part of the 20th century. It must also have been a cold day in autumn or early spring in that they have to put their hands inside their pockets to keep warm. In the background is a giant billboard depicting an American family comprising of a mother, father, two children and a dog. They are inside a car driving through the countryside.
On top of the billboard are the words “World’s Highest Standards of Living” and on the right in cursive, “There’s No Way Like the American Way”. These words suggest to the viewer the affluence of an American lifestyle, specifically the average American family. To belong to an American family is the best place to be in the world. The photographer is trying to point out the irony between the two elements in the picture. The whole image suggests a pictorial commentary about inequality in American society and the illusion that the billboard advertises.
The “highest standards of living” that the billboard ascribes is only applicable to the white American. The traditional, smiling, healthy, nuclear family contrasts sharply with the pensive expressions on the faces of the people in the queue. The bright billboard and the dark colors in the people’s clothing further emphasize this point. The viewer does not know what they were falling in line for but from the fact that some of them are carrying bags and buckets, they are probably queuing for food rations.
The situation regarding racial divisions is not as bad today as it was decades before or the time when the photograph was taken. There are still some poor people who fall in line in soup kitchens, for food stamps, and temporary shelters, but they would be comprised of black and white Americans. Billboard ads though, have not changed. They still promote the good way of life to entice customers; still pretending that American life only offers good things.
Courtney from Study Moose
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