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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • CARNAVAL EN LA HABANA, 1941

The Girl: 1911

The Girl: 1911

1911. "The girl works all day in a cannery." Location unspecified but possibly Mississippi. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.

 

I get this look every day

My 5-year-old daughter has a stare like this. When she was younger, she'd stare at the people behind us in the checkout line and freak out the other shoppers.

Regarding the stare

I'm not saying the girl in the photo didn't have a hard life because she probably did. However, I work in a middle school and I see that piercing, serious stare in current photos every day, even when the occasion is a happy and proud one. I don't know what the reason was for this young lady's dark stare, but our kids tell me it's just "not cool" to smile in a posed photograph. No reason was given as to why is that so. Just the other day they were photographed by a local newspaper because they won a state tournament and the right to go to the national competition. Their picture showed them as if they were about to attend a funeral. Go figure.....

Likewise

The stare is freaking me out, too.

It's just a look

You can see the same sort of looks on any kid. Take a look at her for instance. It's not all hardship and despair that we see in these old photos.

Freckles

Too bad we didn't have color photos from back then.
With all those freckles she probably had pretty red hair.

Tidings from Christmas Past

And from the foldings of its robe, the spirit brought two children.

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish ... Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing.

"Spirit! are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's, and they cling to me, fleeing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, for on their brow I see written "Doom."

"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

The bell struck twelve.

Background

The lifeless grungy background of this just makes it all the more haunting. Most of Hine's photographs show working conditions or some kind of melancholy scenic background, but this makes it feel like she's alone in the whole world. Powerful photo.

I knew I'd seen that look before!

Dave, I've spent half the day trying to remember why this picture looked so familiar; I'd decided that it must be because you posted a picture of a young boy with the same freckles and look (presumably, her brother) about a year or so back.

And now I know...

Still photography

No, this is not a hard stare, this is a difficult holding still for the picture. We forget how long people had to stand still in the old pictures. This girl may have had to hold mannequin still up to ten minutes depending on equipment and conditions. In the really old ones like civil war it could be twenty minutes. that's why people didn't smile, it was just too hard to hold an expression that long. Even if a flash pan were used it would still take 30-90sec of posing, which by today's instant standards is still a long time to hold your pose.

[You're thinking maybe of the early years (1840s-1850s) of photography, when daguerreotype exposures could last a few minutes. The exposure time for emulsions in the Civil War era would be a few seconds at most for outdoor shooting. Lewis Hine's circa 1910 outdoor exposures would have been made in a fraction of a second. - Dave]

No need to read the caption...

This is instantly recognisable as a Hine photo, the look on the kid's face is practically his trademark.

Spotted

I had freckles like that as a child. They only come out when you get lots of sunshine. She didn't spend all of her summers indoors despite the caption. I'm not suggesting she didn't have a hard life, just reading her freckles.

Spooky Beautiful

I feel like her eyes can see straight through to my soul. Still, she looks like a sweetie and I want to give her a hug and brush her hair from her forehead.

Afghanistan USA

Almost everyone remembers the National Geographic girl from Afghanistan cover years ago. This image ranks with it in emotion.

Drawn In

This is the face that initially drew me into Shorpy.com, as it is the icon/link from the fabulous Plan59 site. I have to admit I have searched long and hard to see the full photo, and now that I have, it hits me like a 9-pound sledge. This child, who was probably treated as an expendable, faceless entity in her life of labor, could not have dreamed what impact she would have almost 100 years after she "had her picture made". Thanks for posting it.

[This photo has been on the site for almost exactly two years (originally posted May 21, 2007). Every now and then we like to move the exceptional images out front for their moment in the sun. - Dave]

Hardship

When you didn't know anything else or any other life, it wasn't hardship. It was life. You worked hard -- whether it was at your family's farm or a factory. You played when you could and you found joys in little things.

Reading emotion and meaning into anyone's stare from Shorpy is a tricky thing. Some of us would find it a bit offensive to read despair and hopelessness into our stare just because we worked hard and happened to wonder who in the world was taking our picture.

Wow

I just can't believe the despair and hopelessness captured in this 98-year old photograph. Our self-centered youth of today have no idea what true hardship is. Thanks for giving us a perspective and a glance back at our past. No wonder we have the greatest nation on earth - our forebears were hardy folks.

Roy Batty's Grandmother?

She's seen things we would not believe.

Boring into your soul.

Talk about a 1000 yard stare!

The Eyes Have It

I don't know where to start. Her gaze goes right through
you. It's hard to believe someone so young can have a face that says so much about hardship. We see many of these faces on Shorpy.

Haunting

That stare will stay with me for a long long time.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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