We know what poverty looks like: unpainted boards, empty windows and door frames, broken roofing. Or it could be sagging fences and telephone poles, or cracked pavement and graffiti-stained concrete walls. Or faded billboards and backlot signage with their ironic injunctions to “dream” or “save.” Or worn faces and bodies scarred by years of hard labor, want, and worry. Such stark, black and white images of abandonment and desolation have become the iconography of documentary photography. They also were a genuine artistic achievement and a major contribution to public life. If you doubt that, consider what it would have been to see only the sunny faces, gleaming suburbs, and beautiful vistas of commercial advertising.