What is this audience watching so intently? The answer is after the break.
It's an audience for a square dance at Skyline Farms, Alabama, in 1937. The expressions of this group of men are so intent and serious; you'd think that they were witnesses to the aftermath of a car accident. But they were, in fact, seeing this:
Were they studying the intricacies of the do-si-do? Warily eyeing one of the couples? Another shot of the men shows that perhaps they were outsiders looking-in at a show in which they were not participating. They are standing in the margins of the dance area, separated from the dancers by a raised wooden stage that is further marked off with a fence railing. While the men are dressed for work, in generally darker denim and overalls, the dancers are in their finest: white shirts, pants, and print dresses.
The other thing that one might not realize from looking at the group of men is that the air around them is filled with music. They are watching and listening. The more you dig, the more complicated the image becomes.
Skyline Farms was a New Deal experiment, meant to support unemployed farmers. All of these photographs were taken by famed photographer and artist Ben Shahn, who did work for the Resettlement Administration in the 1930s.