Visual Analysis of a Beuford Smith Photograph

The piece which I will analyze was shot by Beuford Smith, and is titled These Colors Don't Run. It was taken in 1999 and is a silver gelatin print. It is displayed in Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery in the Schine Student Center at Syracuse University.
The issue at the heart of Smiths print appears to be race and racial tensions, as with many of the other works on display. However unlike some of the others it was not taken in the period during and before the sixties. Rather than this time, which we view as the era of racial change and the peak of racial tension in America, it was taken in 1999 a time were less attention is given to any remaining tension. Nor does the print depict an actual event which we view as a symbol of racial tension, like Million Man March in Washington D.C. and Three Placards, June 14, Anti-Apartheid Rally, Central Park, New York New York City. How exactly is Smith commenting on our current situation and what is he saying?
The print is done in black and white making one think that it was in fact taken during the civil rights movement. However this assumption is quickly found to be wrong as one investigates the boy's shirt which has the words Operation Desert Storm. By having viewers make this assumption and then find out that it is not so the color serves to emphasize that this is about a current issue. Also the black and white coloring makes it feel more like a factual documentation.
The two focal points of the piece are the young African American boy on the out side of the shop and the elderly white woman seated at the counter looking through the glass. The boy has a sad look on his face and has his hands on to café style tables on the sidewalk. His stance seemed determined his gaze is fixed on something in the street. Although we can assume the boy is not actually thinking of racial issues his appearance may be intended by Smith to represent the larger African American society, un…


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