Free «Analysis of a Photograph» Essay Sample

This picture is probably of three young brothers in Africa, taken next to a polluted creek that runs behind their home. The three shirtless boys are standing right on the bank of the rivulet of water, with shanties running along both sides of it. The central focus of the photograph is on the oldest boy, who stands on the left half of the image, with his two younger brothers clowning around next to him. To the boy's right (and to our left) is a row of connected shanties. To our right, and to the boys' left, is a rivulet so choked with litter that it is a wonder that the water can make it through. Farther to our right, there is a row of shanties running along the other side of the creek. A slightly cloudy blue sky dominates the top of the picture.

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            The oldest boy seems to understand that the photograph is a somewhat serious occasion, and so he is standing up straight, looking at the camera with a fairly serious expression. His two younger brothers, though, are all about having fun. The shortest boy, in the middle of the three, is also looking at the camera, but his expression is less pensive than that of the oldest brother. His fists are balled up, and he may be taking a playful boxer's pose toward the camera. The third brother is looking at his older brother instead of at the camera and has his arm around the middle brother's neck, as though they are about to start play-tussling once this picture has been taken. The living conditions in this picture are bleak indeed, as these boys have to live mere feet from uncollected garbage, which is slowly rotting in the water, likely gathering flies that carry malaria as well as other health threats, like snakes and rodents.

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            From his expression, it is fairly clear that the oldest boy has some significant responsibilities for the other two. They cluster close to him as the picture is taken. His expression shows that he has had to take care of the two younger boys. The one brother looking up at his oldest brother shows that he looks to him for direction as far as making choices and decisions. The oldest boy seems to realize the privation in which he and his brothers live, as is evidenced by his serious expression. The younger two boys are still playful enough to be able to have fun anywhere – even in what is basically an open sewage area, they can have fun getting ready for the picture.

            The three boys are standing out behind their dwelling. They are in this place because they live there, and there is nothing to occupy them as far as activities go, so they are just standing or running around with little to do. From their expressions, I believe that the younger two are about to break into a play tussle, and the oldest one is about to turn and yell at them to end their fighting and behave.

            The name of this photo is “Poverty.” These three boys show what poverty can mean for innocent youth in countries that suffer from nationwide shortages of basic goods, and in countries whose infrastructure does not provide even basic plumbing to the people. Used in the right context, this photo could serve as a call to action for activists everywhere.

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