Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mitchell
I still maintain, however, that this particular image is not complete within itself unless the viewer has additional information, or is already familiar with the situation. Taken out of context we don't really know what it represents, although so far the consensus of the responders on this forum is that it somehow represents children who are old before their time, and have lost the optimism of youth. That's an awful lot to read into a single picture with no real information on the underlying background.
I'm reminded of the quotation by Walker Evans when asked if a photograph could ever lie, his answer was, "they always do."
Or as Avedon was oft quoted, "All photographs are accurate. None is the truth."

But I can't help think you are limiting yourself by not responding to the photo without understanding its original context. Does it really matter? Does the photo make you feel anything, on its own, without the full essay or the context of the original assignment to tell you what to think/feel, how to respond? Aren't your questions about context/circumstances part of the wonderful journey a picture like this can take you on? One of the great surprising joys I get from my own pictures is when people - preferably people without any photography background (who tend to worry first and foremost about the technical aspects of the photo) - see things/symbols/meanings in the picture I had no idea were there. I used to think that just because they didn't see the print that I thought I was making, the print must be a failure. Now I know better.