Social realism depicts everyday people living everyday lives. It also exposes inequality and calls for social, economic and political dignity for working-class people.
Social realism flourished in the United States after the Great Depression. It drew from various sources including nineteenth-century European Realism, so-called “muckraking” journalism that called for social reform, Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera and a relatively new invention called photography that helped show things as they really are like never before.
The United States sponsored photographers like Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans in a government program called the Farm Securities Administration, which put artists to work and helped visualize the struggles of rural poverty and the need for change.
Image: Dorothea Lange, Farm child. Family now settled on the Bosque Farms project, New Mexico (1935). Gelatin silver print. 23.4 x 23.3 cm. (9 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.). Library of Congress.