Research Paper: Dignity of Workers

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[. . .] The agricultural pictures in the piece detail other workers, but he captures the raw emotion he wants from this one photograph of a workers time-worn hands as the separate leaves of tobacco.

The food category is a detailed look at how the people in many of the regions gather the produce that they use and sell every day. It has been the case in the West that workers have had to forgo the retirements that they had been planning to work into their dotage. People have been forced to do this because the economy has taken away their savings, or they are living longer and are not able to live on the money that they have saved throughout their younger working years. It can also be said that people often do not start thinking of retirement until they are too close to make any real difference. This is a problem that many in the world do not have because they are forced to work up until death or an old age related illness makes it so that they cannot work any longer. This can be seen in the face of a fisherman who Salgado has captured as he and others depart for a day of fishing off the coast of Italy. The fisherman has a sad expression in his lined face and he seems to dread the coming of another day when he again must work hard for his daily bread (Salgado). The boat is crowded with young men who are also going out; showing the sharp contrast between the depression of the aging worker and the smiles of those who are much younger. It also seems that whole families are engaged in this enterprise, and that they all seem to take some pride in it except for the one who gazes back at the warmth of the shore he has rarely known during his many years. Salgado captures the longing and age of one who knows no other life, and tries to impart the knowledge that most of the world is not like the Western world.

The cover photograph is of coal mine workers in India who are exiting the after a day working with picks and shovels to clear the coal from the mine. The workers appear somewhat stoic when the photograph is taken, but the most interesting part of the photo is that only their lips and eyes are still their original color. The workers are completely covered in the toxic dust of the mine they have just recently exited (Salgado). They do not seem either happy or sad, just resigned to their fate. These people do not know another life than the one that they have. Most workers that Salgado captures know from birth what they will be doing with their lives. This is not much different than many workers on farms, in coal mines, and in other industries in the West, but there is one great difference. The wages that the workers are paid, the conditions in which they live their lives, and the care that they are mandated to receive is in stark contrast to the people in Salgado's photographs.

The artist also shows workers in oil who are forced to put out raging derrick fires and those in various industries who work in very dangerous conditions, but it is the people building canals in India. A young woman has a digging implement that looks like a large hoe lifted above her head ready to remove another small amount of dirt in the construction of a canal. In the background, it is possible to see what looks like a large truck that is probably used to remove the dirt that the people dig. Of course, the canals are needed for transportation and, primarily, agriculture, but it is how the woman is dressed that is most enlightening. She is young and dark from the sun. She wields the hoe as if it is something that she has done for a long time. She is dressed in a long serapi that covers her head, torso and arms, but is light and airy enough to provide some amount of coolness. The cloth seems to be richly patterned, and she is wearing a great deal of jewelry on her arms, fingers and around her neck. She looks like a woman who had dressed in her finest clothes so that she could go to market that day, but here she stands with a hoe in her hands, helping to dig a canal that the family, or village, needs for water channeling. This woman is a message to the Western viewer that everyone in these poor families works and does their fair share. The economy is so bad in most areas of the world that kids begin work just after they learn to walk. So, it is no wonder that this woman stands bedecked wielding a hoe.

Conclusion

Sebastiao Salgado continues to make the rest of the world aware of how the poorest live. For people in the Western world to think that they are not rich is to insult those who work for a few dollars a day to carry one hundred pound packs of earth on their backs as they climb ladders out of a put. Social injustice is a fact of life, but that does not mean that attempts should not be made to make the lives of those facing injustice better. Salgado tries to show the injustice that many would never have noticed otherwise through his lens, and through the eyes of those living it.

Works Cited

Arceyut-Frixione, Helen Adilia. "Picturing and consuming Images of Misery and Injustice." Concordia University, 2008. Web.

Bakre, Shilpa. "AMOA Presents: "Workers: Photographs of by Sebastiao Salgado." AMOA News, 2009. Web.

Crow, Thomas. "The Practice of Art History in America." Daedalus 135.2 (2006): 70-84. Print.

Salgado, Sebastiao. Workers: An Archeology of the Industrial Age. London: Phaidon, 2002. Print.

Socialist Worker. "Sebastiao Salgado: Depicting People's Dignity, Strength and Suffering. Socialist Worker Online, 2005 18 June. Web.

Stallabrass, Julian. "Sebastiao Salgado and Fine Art Photojournalism." New Left Review… [END OF PREVIEW]

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