Own Research – Magnum Photos Now: New Blood Jan 2017 Magnum Talk @Barbican

I have loads of research to write-up as at the beginning of the year there seemed to be a glut of talks and exhibitions to attend. On January 19th 2017 I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Magnum Photos Now: New Blood -A discussion on contemporary photographic practices with new Magnum photographers Bieke Depoorter and Max Pinckers.

The discussion focused on the individual practice of Magnum’s new photographers, from traditional photojournalism to a more art based approach to personal projects; and explored ‘what the world-renowned Magnum Photos agency means to contemporary practitioners today.’

Bieke Depoorter

Belgian photographer Bieke Depoorter captures the privacy of people whom she meets by chance and she gets to invite her into their homes. In 2009, she travelled through Russia and later pursued a similar long-term project in the United States. Ou Menya and I am about to call it a day series were published by Lannoo and Patrick Frey and Hannibal. Depoorter joined Magnum Photos as a nominee in 2012, became an associate member in 2014 and a full member in 2016.

Bieke Depoorter received her master’s degree in photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent in 2009.

She works mostly on autonomous projects. Amazingly, I discovered that in 2009, she travelled through Russia, photographing people in whose homes she had spent a single night for her series Ou Menya,

To complete this project, Bieke Depoorter spent three months,divided up into three trips of one month each, following the route of the Trans-Siberian Express’ stopping at the forgotten villages along the way. On reaching a village, she would ask residents if she could stay with them, moving from living room to living room each night. However, she spoke no Russian at all! Instead she had some Russian words scribbled on paper which she would show to strangers who, even more amazingly ‘allowed her to be welcomed and absorbed in the warm chaos of a family.’

The note read:

I’m looking for a place to spend the night. I don’t want to stay at a hotel because I don’t have much money and I’d love to see how people live in Russia. Perhaps I could crash at your place? Thank you very much for your help!

Depoorter states: At first, this note was just a solution to me, but once I started travelling, I realised it was a nice way of entering people’s homes. I decided I would do this every night – and the note eventually became a tool and the centre of my project.

On looking at the rather intimate nature of some of the photographs I found her comments about having difficulties with street photography fairly amusing. Depoorter thought that street photography felt like she was intruding, taking something away from them, stealing in effect, and treating them as objects not people. I guess that the people in her series agreed to the photographs being taken and published in a way the doesn’t happen on the street but I think I’d rather that than my naked butt in a book…

A similar long-term project in the United States led to her second book I am about to call it a day, co-published in 2014 by Edition Patrick Frey and Hannibal.

Bieke Depoorter traveled across the USA asking perfect strangers whether she could spend a single night in their homes. Short but intense encounters are important elements in the work. The openness with which she is welcomed and the intimacy that is shared with her, evoke intriguing moments. These intimate and unexpected situations gave rise to portraits of individuals, couples, and families. Depoorter intersperses them with landscapes. The images are atmospherically charged, some melancholic, some comical, some subtly menacing. They thread a fine line between a real and cinematic world. – Maarten Dings

 

Depoorter likes to photograph at night, although I don’t think I like the high amount of grain this produces in her images:

I often photograph people at night, just before they go to sleep. I’m interested in the border between the real world and the fantasy world. When people prepare to go to bed, they’re in another mindset. I take photographs during the day as well but at night people aren’t so conscious of me being there.

What I did like about this second set of images was the way she interspersed her portraits with landscape images to tell the whole narrative and link people to place.

Another project she showed us was In Between, where she photographed ‘the intimacy of Egyptian Families.’

Since the beginning of the uprising in 2011 Egypt has been through a period of change. After three years of instability, economic decline, and power shifts, one no longer hears the revolutionary demands of ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice!’ in the streets. Most of all it seems the locals long for stability and security.

Away from the politics and news of the day Depoorter searches for the quieter moments that are of course directly influenced by the larger issues. Each day, she searches for places to spend a night, through the people she meets in the side streets in country lanes.

On looking at the images as a whole, you get the overwhelming sensation that as humans we aren’t really that different. The intimate family moments, the pensive looks as people reach the end of the day the home settings aren’t really that far apart. That’s something I think we should all bear in mind in these troubled times.

People are very similar. I wanted to focus on that, rather than the differences. I recently had an exhibition where I mixed all my photographs from the US, Cairo, and Russia: they all fit really well together.

She also shared with us her first short movie ‘Dvalemodus’ shot in 2017, which she directed together with musician Mattias De Craene. The film talks about the everlasting darkness in a small village in the Northern Norway… this was weird and very post-modernist if you ask me…weird angles, music abstract images…possibly a bridge too far for me lol.

What did I take away from Depoorter?

  • take risks – although I don’t think I’ll be jumping on a Trans-Siberian train any day soon…
  • if one genre of photography isn’t working for you, try something else
  • Don’t be afraid of grainy images
  • Don’t be afraid to engage with strangers
  • Language doesn’t have to be a barrier
  • mix portraits and landscapes if it assists the narrative
  • shooting at night lends a different light/atmosphere to the images
  • you don’t have to be old/established to get into Magnum
  • Try to use a more contemporary approach to documentary

Max Pinckers

Not believing in the possibility of sheer objectivity or neutrality, Max Pinckers advocates a manifest subjective approach, which is made visible through the explicit use of theatrical lighting, stage directions or extras. Growing up in Indonesia, India, Australia and Singapore, Pinckers returned to Belgium in 2008, his native country, to study documentary photography at the School of Arts / KASK, where he is currently a doctoral researcher. His last book ‘Lotus’, was published in 2016 by Lyre Press.

Max Pinckers is a photographer based in Brussels, Belgium. He has produced various photo-books such as Lotus (2011), The Fourth Wall, (2012) and Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (2014). Pinckers has had exhibitions at the MOCAK in Poland (2016), the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the United States (2015) and the Centre for Fine Arts – Bozar in Belgium (2015), among others. Awards include the Edward Steichen Award (2015) and the City of Levallois Photography Award (2013). In 2015 he founded the independent publishing house Lyre Press and became a nominee of Magnum Photos.

 

Will They Sing Like Raindrops Or Leave Me Thirsty

Magnum photographer Max Pinckers travelled to India for four months, his partner Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras, attempting to grasp, stage and document aspects of love and marriage. This series of photographs focuses on honour-based violence in India; in particular, the violence against women and men who fall in love or have a relationship against their family’s will.

He completed a heck of a lot of background research , combing through newspapers and magazines, watching films and roaming through cities, he looked for subjects that suited his theme, such as couples on their honeymoon at the foot of the Himalayas, men on white horses, photo studios where couples have their portraits taken, strange decors for marriage ceremonies, a stranded photograph of a married couple  a set of discarded photos from a studio next to the Taj Mahal and many other things. Max also includes the slightly more abstract images within the body of work, for example a picture of spilt milk references the Bollywood use of milk to symbolise sexual climax – and he cites Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr frolicking in the waves in From Here To Eternity as a frame of reference.

His subjects include captured photographs of ‘lovebirds’ (young lovers on the run from their disapproving families due to caste or religious differences) and the Love Commandos – an organization that protects and supports these young runaway couples and helps them get married and start afresh.

Pinckers stages the majority of his images stating: Fiction often teaches us more about reality than reality itself.

In staging his images he uses tripods and often an ‘unneeded reflecting flash, as a footnote, a signature, but also as a spatial photographic intervention.’ This ties in with research completed on documentary performance and fictions, photographers such as Tom Hunter, Mohamed Bourouissa, Essop twins and Jeff Wall, and reveals how Magnum is now accepting the non-traditional ways of representing documentary. His work seems to be following on from the work of Hannah Starkey and Charley Murrell in the form of imagined and choreographed realities.

Pinckers has taken a traditional documentary subject, featuring people who are in very real danger of violence or murder, and handled it with a contemporary twist ‘pulling in a fictional direction using a visual language that borrows from Bollywood and its depiction of relationships and love.’ There are an estimated 1,000 honour killings in India every year, but it’s also a problem that extends across much of Asia, Africa, into Europe and the UK.

The purely staged shots are mixed with photographs of moments restaged from real life. We see an image of a man and woman standing on corrugated iron rooftops on a Mumbai beach. She is throwing a paper plane to the man, a message of her forbidden love. The lighting is garish, the location opportunistic and anonymous. It seems as though we are in the 1970s again. But the picture is a recreation of the courtship of Sanjay and Aarti, the most celebrated of the couples rescued by the Love Commandos. After Aarti’s parents found out about her relationship with Sanjay, they beat her and tried to sell her three times. Once she was sold to a couple for £140 as ‘a slave for extramarital relations’. Aarti complained so much that she was returned to her parents from whom, with help from the Love Commandos, she eventually escaped. Reaching out into a fictional world, Pinckers shows us Sanjay and Aarti in their new home. Aarti is holding a baby, Sanjay is switching the television on and the walls are covered in peeling blue paint and irregular brickwork. The struggle for love is over; now the struggle of life begins.

The Fourth Wall

Weaving reality and fiction, Max Pinckers examines the Indian film industry and its ingrained influence on Indian culture.

Nowhere else is there such devotion to cinema as in India.This fictional world seeps into reality and influences everyday life, dictating the perception and imagination of its audience

Rather than focusing on the more obvious, such as advertising billboards or Bollywood bling, Pinckers turned the streets of Bombay into his own set, inviting passers-by to participate. He says: ‘The people in these images become actors by choosing their own roles, which they perform for the camera and its western operator…Conscious of the power of images, they give it their all, reflecting on their silver screen dreams by embracing their collective visual world and creating their own brief moments of suspension of disbelief.’

A bit like Murrell who mixes reality and fiction, Pinckers does the same, confusing fact, fiction, and documentary capturing scenes in which it is a combination of both staged and spontaneous moments. Max explains:

A photograph of two men in uniform climbing over a fence, escaping …a re- enactment of a moment that just passed. They do it over again with great pride and pleasure.

[For another tableau] I read an article in the newspaper: two men use sleep-inducing gas to rob a struggling actress in her home, the same gas used in a 1972 hit film in which a cook robs his landlord. An image that I’ve been planning to make for some time comes to mind – a thick cloud of smoke in a bedroom film set.

Traditionally, Western photographers have approached Mumbai, where most of these images were taken, ‘from a humanitarian perspective, using people – their expressions, gestures, moments of clarity – that might  symbolise the social realities of the city.’ In this body of work Pinckers has a different approach. The fourth wall, in dramatic terms, forms the imaginary screen through which the audience sees the scene unfold. The actors, conscious of this barrier, tend to break through it now and then by hinting at their own fiction, acknowledging the camera and the act. In this body of work Pinckers has ‘applied this concept to documentary photography by way of commenting on the paradoxes of his chosen medium.’

I have consistently been exploring the boundaries of documentary photography and its narrative power. Naturally this suggests a blurred boundary between genre’s and definitions, although I would place my work primarily within a documentary context.

 

Lotus

Max Pinckers, in collaboration with Quinten De Bruyn, documented the lives of transsexuals in Thailand, whilst exploring the boundaries and the role of contemporary documentary photography. In Lotus, the gender crisis that the

so-called ladyboys face is transformed into a visual metaphor about the identity crisis that contemporary documentary photography currently encounters, when it dares to reflect upon itself critically, and confront its paradoxes.

The documentary photographer that captures reality as ‘a fly on the wall’ can’t deny his or her directive and manipulative role any longer. The anonymity, the seeming absence, is merely a pose. The tableaux that the photographer captures are not lies, but enfold themselves within the studio that he or she creates from reality.

 

 

Other pertinent facts are he self publishes and The Fourth Wall was completed due to a crowd funding exercise. His current project is based around the Mau Mau Uprising of the 1950’s where he is tracking down people who were involved at the time and re-enacting some of the scenes. Max also wants to include some of the ephemera that he is discovering left behind in archives. At the time of the talk this was a work in progress.

Neither Depoorter nor Pinckers want to caption their work.

What did I take away from his work?

  • That even more so I can see the benefits of staged documentary images
  • Lots of research assists in getting the right shot
  • it is important to choose a subject with a powerful narrative
  • collaborating can be good
  • you can mix portrait and abstract shots within the same body of work
  • be experimental/contemporary with your approach
  • Crowd funding can work if you want to control your publication or if you are rejected by large publishing houses

Again a very informative talk which has opened my mind to many opportunities for capturing documentary work.

Research

https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/magnum-photos-now-new-blood/

https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/bieke-depoorter/

https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/bieke-depoorter-photography-magnum-interview-876

http://www.ideastap.com/IdeasMag/the-knowledge/bieke-depoorter-Magnum-photographer

http://www.biekedepoorter.com/

https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/max-pinckers/

http://www.maxpinckers.be/

http://www.bjp-online.com/2015/07/learning-about-love-from-bollywood/

http://tacohiddebakker.com/texts/the-fourth-wall-an-interview-with-max-pinckers/

 

What makes a document – Discontinuities

This next section of the coursework continues the discussion of context and meaning, stating how it is produced, distributed and consumed determines the information that it conveys. Having read all about the ‘transparent image’ and finally reviewing Alec Soth’s Gathered Leaves, especially Songbook, I have to agree. With Songbook Soth removed the images from their original context, took away any narrative and captions and replaced the text with song lyrics leaving the readers to their own imaginations.

John Berger coined the phrase ‘discontinuity’ and argued that this leads to ambiguity:

All photographs are ambiguous. All photographs have been taken out of a continuity, If the event is a public event, this continuity is history; if it is personal, the continuity, which has been broken, is a life story…Discontinuity always produces ambiguity. (Berger& Mohr, 1995 p.91)

I found a really good PDF of his essay on Appearances from Another Way of Telling  here. I also liked this bit:

In the relation between photographs and words, the photograph begs for an interpretation, and the words usually supply it. The photograph, irrefutable as evidence, but weak in meaning, is given a meaning by the words. (Berger& Mohr, 1995 p.91)

Alec Soth isn’t the only photographer who plays with photographs and captions. Whilst helping my son with his AS photography we researched the fantasy and surrealism of Duane Michals  “his handwritten text adds another dimension to the images’ meaning and gives voice to Michals’ singular musings, which are poetic, tragic, and humorous, often all at once.” A short interview with him can be found here. I found his work fascinating, albeit it not documentary.

So to help us understand the truth behind the theory we have another exercise.

Exercise

Make a selection of up to five photographs from your personal or family collection. They can be as recent or as old as you wish. The only requirement is that they depict events that are relevant to you on a personal level and couldn’t belong to anyone else (i.e. no photographs of the Eiffel Tower).

Using OCA forums such as OCA/student and OCA Flickr group, ask the learning communities to provide short captions or explanations for your photographs.

Summarise your findings and make them public in the same forums that you used for your research. 

So these are the 5 images I have uploaded and as soon as I get responses I shall update my blog post.

*update*

Firstly thank you so much for the many, and prompt, responses which means I can complete this exercise.

Image one.

10513501_10152677280603685_290556847760142329_n

1.Music competition trophy
2.First prize Children’s Talent Show
3.Band competition trophy
4.Woollen rocker
5.Knitted heavy metal?
6.I made this as a prize for a competition.
7.Look what you can make with a dime bag of wool!
8.The aware for the hippest crochet chick goes to …
9.Very Metal. Quick question do Pantera really do knitted dolls? please tell
me they don’t lol.
10.Rag doll rock
11.Pantera fan of the year award
12.Dolls Rock!
13.Heavy wool

Most of you gathered it was something to do with music, heavy metal/rock, realised it was handcrafted crochet, some correctly guessed by me. Others knew exactly who it was supposed to be and the band he was in. For those of you who don’t…

dime3

Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside his brother, Vinnie Paul. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.
Abbott was shot and killed by a gunman while on stage during a performance with Damageplan on December 8, 2004, at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He ranked No. 92 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists and No. 1 in the UK magazine, Metal Hammer.

Personal story behind the image:

My son has a very good friend, Zeak, who is a huge fan of Pantera. (point to the commentator who said Pantera Fan of the Year lol) One day we saw online an amigurumi Dimebag Darrell…

230403_06jan12_010412_7

…and Zeak’s response was “OMG if someone made that for me I’d cry.” Challenge accepted, I found a pattern for a dolls body and made up the rest as I went along. My son was still in 6th form so using scrap acrylic and his DT skills made the guitar and stand, complete with etched lightening bolts and band name. It was wrapped and saved for Zeak’s birthday and although he didn’t cry he was very, very pleased with it. To take the photo ‘Dimebag’ is stood on a cake decorating turntable which used to belong to my Mum’s best friend. When she died it was given to me, as I also dabble with cake decorating so this image documents a few good memories. This reveals that personal life stories cannot be gleaned from a single image, even those with some cultural knowledge couldn’t accurately guess the intention behind the making of the doll. My words have now given the back story. Does it influence your feelings towards it now?

Image Two

img_2147
1.Renovation of the new home
2.Helping with the renovation
3.Every little bit helps
4.Home tuition
5.Home improvements
6.I’m going to be an artist when I grow up
7.Helping mom (or dad) paint
8.Home!
Just the lone word sprung to mind, reminds me so much of our house when the kids were little.
9.Child Labor
10.I want to help too!
11.Child labour laws relaxed/The work wear collection for Baby Gap 😉
12.I can help too
13.I know what I can do

Personal story behind the image:

This one was more obvious, yes it was my daughter (now 24) who always “wanted to help too.” I have pictures of her from a very young age laying bricks, tiling the fireplace, painting walls peeling off wallpaper etc etc etc. I never stopped her by telling her she was too young, or a girl or she’d get too messy and hopefully that’s why now there isn’t much she feels she cannot tackle. When at Uni she earned extra cash by helping her landlord decorate his other properties when handing over the keys to new tenants so this is one of the reasons I chose to include it; not only does it sum up her personality then it also resonates with how she is now. The responses all recognised that it was a child helping to decorate the home. They ranged from amusing captions, to factual captions and a comment about how it made one of the audience feel. To me this illustrated the value of shared experiences when we look at an image.Others may have also felt that warm inner glow, but not chosen to express it. However, it is nice to know when an image you have take resonates with another and they understand its meaning.

This also emphasises how a quick snap taken as the action caught my eye can change in value as a document and the depth of mean alter over time. It documents what she was like then, how I perceive her personality and skills now through things we did during her childhood, kids fashions at the time (though they don’t appear to have changed that much) what our house was like then – we now have proper balustrades- and when I was still married…Although a lot can be gleaned from this image it still does not pin point exactly where the house is, the style or the size so there is a limitation as to the amount of information we can infer without text or further explanation. As this is a fairly ‘recent’ family snap shot it may not appear that important now, but skip ahead a few generations and others may be puzzling over who it is in the photograph and where it was taken, just as I do when tracing my ancestry and looking at older images and in that context it could become a very important document.

Image three

img_2148

1.Acorn versus oak
2.Final days of summer
3.Sign of the times
4.Will it kill me?
5.Nature walk
6.This is going to be an enormous tree one day
7.From small acorns….
8.The humble beginning…
9.Hit me on the head
10.From little things do great things grow
11.The acorn that fell far from the tree
12.From the likes of these
13.Nature’s treasure

In some ways this is also very obvious, but not the reason for me taking the image or where it was taken. Yes, it is an acorn and with oak trees behind…’hit me on the head’ is the closest response. Once again even though an ‘obvious’ shot and a good guess at why it was taken there isn’t enough transparency within the image for the audience to know the exact history behind why or where it was taken which is why I selected it.

Personal story behind the image:

Way back in September 1989 I was on honeymoon in South-West France. A camp site right opposite Lac de Lacanau, as my then spouse loved to windsurf. We spent 3 weeks in a small 2 man tent which leaked when it rained! Anyway I digress, as it was late season the rest of the campsite was empty bar a few bikers passing through, so a lot of people were by then hibernating their caravans in the park which was full of oak trees. During the night loads of acorns would fall from the trees and all we could hear was “rustle, rustle THUNK!” as they rebounded off the caravan roofs… the first night there we ‘wondered what on earth?’ only to discover it was pesky acorns that continued to thunk for the duration… so of course we had to have a snap of the bloody things…it makes me sad to think that unless I write that down (and why would it be interesting to anyone else really) this small, amusing anecdote will be lost forever.

Again I wonder does this explanation alter how you the audience view it?

Image Four

img_2150

1.Restaurant scene
2.Cocktails
3.Making avant-garde music in a cafe
4.The analyst
5.Making cocktails in the 70s with an American nuclear scientist.
6.I’m not really sure about this but I’ll give it a try
7.Goodfellas!
8.Stir ’em, then drink ’em
9.Terror cell discover new explosive
10.I never understood the purpose of fondue!
11.Happy hour
12.Great times
13.Do you remember the day after?

I love this photograph, it brings back so many memories, and some of the others that go with it that I couldn’t put up…again a fairly obvious image of people in a restaurant, beyond that nothing else has been said apart from some very amusing captions, so thanks for making me giggle. No-one spotted what was actually happening or can image the aftermath of his actions.

Personal story behind the image:

Again a looooong time ago , when I was a proper grown-up I used to work for a certain large bank in the Money Market up in town. Every so often we would let off steam, pub it and grab a curry down Brick Lane, especially if it was a birthday or leaving do. Now this is where it is important that you write things down people, as even I can’t remember the exact location or occasion, although I am positive it was a leaving do and I think I know who was leaving….anyway he was given a tie as part of his leaving present and whilst he went to get rid of several of the pints imbibed earlier in the evening, Mike, on the right, decided it would be REALLY funny to stuff said tie into the glass of water on the table, poking it in with a knife…as you do…the explosive reaction when the owner returned was quite spectacular, I think my vocabulary got extended by several new words that night… just think we used to be in charge of all your hard earned cash mwahahahahaaaaa

So this is why this image was included in this set, as again, even if it had been spotted that there was tie mutilation going on, the story behind it was not easy to work out. Meaning can be lost even when it is from your own album if you don’t caption or annotate it. Looking through a set of old work images some of the faces are so familiar yet the names have vanished. I know this was a celebration of some kind but what? So even I am trying to interpret the full meaning… if I can’t how can I expect an audience to? My mother threw away a lot of photographs when my dad died, they were of people she didn’t know and places that meant nothing to her. Some of them were so faded and small, but some were of his time in Korea. I regret not knowing that she was throwing them out at the time.

Image Five

paris

1.The backyard
2.My grandfather’s back yard
3.Summer is a long way away
4.Telescopic holiday
5.My garden.
6.The empty chairs, abandoned mug, etc make me feel like the inhabitants have gone as do the bare plants, etc. B&W and white vignette make me feel like I’m looking into a memory.
7.Times Past
8.Dreamy summer
9.A little bit of paradise
10.Summer house back yard
11.This was the place
12.Once upon a time
13.An early creative step

Once again on the surface an obvious image, yes it is a backyard, it was slightly unloved and I did mess about with different effects, and quite ‘naffly’ too I think.

Personal story behind the image:
Back in 2012 my daughter was a language student at Uni and had to do her year abroad, spending 6 mths in Hamburg followed by several months in Paris. In 2013 I took sometime to go visit and crashed in her student digs, which in all honesty were fairly squalid, no fault of the students, blame the landlord, although I’m sure you could blame the abandoned mug onto one of them! Tho’ possibly someone who had been there about 5 years ago! The week I stayed the weather was fairly dull and overcast for a lot of the time and the image I snapped, of a neglected, dingy, unkempt yard with stained walls, and a broken blind, that looked fairly dull and boring, so thought I would throw a lot of tweaks at it…try an evoke that air of a memory, the romance attached to Paris, hide the awful dull view it was…a step too far with the overdone vignette but hey-ho live n learn.

Despite being a tad overdone, the cliche of the vignette seems to have worked insofar as the audience has read into it that is is a memory, or belongs to a time gone by, suggesting a Grandfather’s backyard etc. It also hides how grungy it was in reality too. Without a caption or accompanying text the relevance, memory and realities of the image aren’t immediately apparent.

Conclusion

I enjoyed completing this exercise and putting into practice some of the theory that I am gradually stuffing into my brain, I think some of it is sticking! I believe, as do most, that all photographs are a form of document, as expounded in (Wells,2004, p.9). Some of the images posted here have slightly altered in importance, or had the memories tinged with sadness or pride due to the lapse in time between them being taken and being revisited. Having been divorced for over 12 years now I no longer look at my honeymoon album! I look at the photo of my little girl and see a proud independent woman who gained her MFL degree and is now a qualified teacher.

Is context important to a photograph? To fully understand everything about it I believe so, however, without looking outside of immediate Western culture, it has become apparent that we have enough shared histories between us to infer quite a bit of meaning from the images we see but not necessarily all. Therefore I also find myself in agreement with John Berger (Berger & Mohr, 1995, p91) that photographs have an air of ambiguity unless we provide a caption or text. Once I provide the back stories have opinions altered, do you now see why something was photographed or edited as it was, does it change your emotions when you view it? Can you relate to it more? If anyone feels like responding to these questions I can update my blog further :o)

I also agree to a certain extent that once detail has been provided by the author of the images, it provides an air of ‘certainty’ – thanks again John for your insights – I still like to think we have the ability to gain other information from an image, just as films, books, poems touch us all on a different level, apart from what is handed to us on a plate. There maybe other signs and symbols that we never even spotted within the frame that triggers memories in others. Did any of mine do that for you? Did you feel that my explanations “produced an effect of certainty, even dogmatic assertion”? Or did I make any of it up lololol. No, they are all true, in case you were wondering.

*update* as with some other posts I am revisiting after reading some more theory books and posting excerpts that I feel are relevant to the topic and possibly support my arguments/ideas. In Context and Narrative it states that photographs or ‘documented moments’ have ‘direct relevance to the present and encourages us to think of the past’ (Short, M. 2011 p.9) which is exactly how I felt when looking at the image of my daughter.

*update 2* on going through Another Way of Telling (Berger &Mohr 1989) Mohr did the exact same exercise with 5 of his images getting  many different responses from a wider audience such as a school girl, a banker, an actress, a clergyman and a phychiatrist.

Thanks again to those who responded, without you I couldn’t have done this exercise, it is very much appreciated. xx

References

Berger, J. and Mohr, J. (1989) Another way of telling. Cambridge: Penguin Books / Granta.

exhibit- E. (2016) Duane Michals – artists. Available at: http://www.dcmooregallery.com/artists/duane-michals (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

The last Sentimentalist: A Q. & A. With Duane Michals (no date) Available at: http://projects.newyorker.com/portfolio/michals-empty-ny/ (Accessed: 30 October 2016).
Short, M. Basics Creative Photography. Worthing, UK: AVA Publishing, 2011. Print.

What makes a document? – Post Links

I felt the last post would have become overly long if I added any thoughts and reflections on the links within the WeAreOCA original post and responses so am commenting here instead.

The first link is from Jose himself advising us that context is “a necessary attribute in a documentary photograph, as it is clearly emphasized in a book a recently reviewed for We Are OCA.”

The post for that is here and on reading the entry it looks like a handy reference book to own so I have just ordered it, will update you as to its value as I read through it.

Jose 27 August 2011 at 5:56 pm due to the turn in the conversation posted a link to the BBC news with regards to the “leaping wolf” scandal.

“Your comment reminded me of a photograph which was eventually disqualified from the 2009 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.”What’s most interesting about this case is that we are not talking about digital fakery but a key piece of information which was disclosed and completely changed the way we responded to the image. And that’s because even though what the photograph shows is a wolf jumping, what it tell us is something about the quality of ‘being wild’. Once we know the wolf may have been trained to do the stunt our perception of the image totally changes. The quality ‘wild’ is immediately gone, even though the actual image is very much the same and real, as in, presumably, not the product of digital trickery.

In the context of the original question the shift for me became less that the photograph documented a wild animal but that it documented the lengths that some people will go to in order to enter and win a competition and that from now on the photographer will be linked to a cheating scandal.

Peter Haveland 28 August 2011 at 11:52 am added
For those who like to get their theory via fiction and drama try Stephen Poliakoff’s Shooting the past

All documents mediate that which they seek to document.

From reading the plot outline I gather his meaning is that some people only perceive photographs to have a value is they have context and narrative. I wholeheartedly concur that this is true as sadly years after my Dad died my Mum threw out a load of old photos because she didn’t know who they were! I didn’t realise this at the time as I am fascinated by old photos and have also been tracing my family tree. My father also served in Korea and she threw away all the photos he had of that time bar a few of him that are in really poor condition. If only I had a time machine to go back and rescue them!

Gareth 1 September 2011 at 8:15 pm also contributed
Some photos are documents as soon as they are written to the memory card of course, this startling example from Monday is a case in point. The editorial and comments however show how people bring their own meanings…

Which also supports my argument that images don’t have to have time to be considered a document.

Peter Haveland 3 September 2011 at 12:38 pm then added
Take a look at this chapter by John Berger

but I don’t think the link took me to where it should have…

Pdog19 17 November 2013 at 5:24 pm said
This is one of the more insightful reviews of the difference between photojournalism and documentary photography written by Antonin Kratochvil (Czech-born American photojournalist).

So I will have to make sure I take time to read the article in full but at a quick glance it states:

Photojournalism—in its instant shot and transmission—doesn’t show “life.” It neither has the time to understand it nor the space to display its complexity. The pictures we see in our newspapers show frozen instants taken out of context and put on a stage of the media’s making, then sold as truth. But if the Molotov cocktail-throwing Palestinian is shot in the next instant, how is that told? And what does that make him—a nationalist or terrorist? From the photojournalist, we’ll never know since time is of the essence, and a deadline always looms. Viewers can be left with a biased view, abandoned to make up their minds based on incomplete evidence.

Through documentary work, the photographer has a chance to show the interwoven layers of life, the facets of daily existence, and the unfettered emotions of the people who come under the camera’s gaze. When finally presented, viewers are encouraged to use their intelligence and personal experiences, even their scepticism, to judge. By eliciting associations and metaphors in the viewer, an image has the potential to stimulate all senses. But photographs that do not fulfil this potential remain visual data whose meaning is limited to the boundaries of the frame; the viewer is left to look, comprehend the information presented, and move on.

Nigel Monckton 25 November 2013 at 10:22 pm mentions
A document is “…any concrete or symbolic indexical sign, preserved or recorded toward the ends of representing, of reconstituting, or of proving a physical or intellectual phenomenon.” So says Suzanne Briet in ”What is documentation” – one of the founding texts of information science  On this basis both the balloon, and the image of the balloon are documents – the one of the power of a leader, the other of the existence of a particular balloon. The photo is also a secondary document, in that it references the message of the first document.

All which scarily echos Walton.

Peter Haveland 17 June 2014 at 10:22 am gives us more useful information
There is, currently, a scan of the article but much better to buy Berger and Mohr’s “Another Way of Telling” from which it comes.

but I hate reading PDFs so will possibly download and print it for later consumption.

jsumb20 June 2014 at 11:12 pm adds
Here’s Susie Linfield – author of the Cruel Radiance talking about Documentary, fascinating for all sorts of reasons that are explored on the Documentary course.

Having been to a Don McCullin talk I was interested in this artcle for many reasons. Possibly another post for another day but a snippet would be:

Throughout the book, Linfield asks herself – and us – questions such as: what does it mean to look at photographs depicting violence and suffering? Is the refusal to do that truly a form of respect? Why is this type of photography branded as voyeuristic, exploitation and pornography? What would solidarity with the people in such photographs mean? What would our understanding of the world be like without photographs and why do some thinkers maintain that a world without images would be a better one? What does it mean to acknowledge another human being’s suffering knowing that to truly understand it is often impossible? And how has the photography of political trauma and political witness responded to the radical changes in how war is made, and what it is made for, in the course of the past eight decades?

Anne Bryson 30 April 2016 at 11:23 pm states
I have read the posts of Folio, Anne and Peter, (September 11) questioning whether or not facts are really true. So that brings into question the images such as Felice Beato’s image of the massacre at Lucknow where he apparently arranged disinterred bodies in the foreground before taking his picture to stress the scale of the massacre.

Just like Andrew Gardner then…just because the bodies were moved does not make them less dead, the horror less real, the facts of war a lie, but the images themselves are not in a true sense ‘authentic.’ However they do still document truths and a moment of historical significance…

Leonie Broekstra 29 August 2016 at 1:20 pm adds
Phew, so many replies and ideas to ponder on! I read this article, that questions what makes a documentary and concludes that the question should be ‘when is a documentary?’

But I must admit to not reading any of that yet….again 23 pages of a PDF…

Despite this exercise being time consuming it certainly was worthwhile. I have picked up some useful documents to read and ordered a book which hopefully will further develop my theoretical understanding and inform my photographic practice.

What makes a document? – What makes a document post

The next exercise its to read the post “What makes a document” on WeAreOca ensuring each link is visited. I need to then make a substantial and authoritative reply expressing my opinion on the topic and refer back to other contributions. Posted in 2011 and with 75 responses I may be a while.

What makes a document?

In English literacy when you get an exam question you are often asked to refer to the context of the novel or poem within your response. This way you show a greater understanding of what you have read. Why was it written, who was it written for, who wrote it, what was their background or agenda for writing it, when was it written, what historical events were happening at the time to influence the writer? How and why was it published? What vocabulary did they choose, what language devices, how effective were these and what was the effect on the reader? You have to be able to answer all of these to demonstrate complete understanding of the text. Great when you have all that information to hand and just have to make learn it. However, if you just “read” a novel without knowing any or all of the above does it make it any less of a novel? Do you get any less enjoyment out of it? Just as listening to a piece of music can make you feel happy or scared without knowing it was written in a major or minor key.

The same can be said of a photograph; to truly have full understanding you need to know the context in which it was taken etc, but there maybe difficulty in obtaining all of the knowledge that you can apply in literature, as you may not always know the full history or histories behind it.But does this make it any less a document? Therefore I stand by the belief that any photograph is a document. If that document gains more significance or importance due to context and possibly time remains to be seen. I don’t think time has to pass for a photograph to have historical importance or gain the label historical document. The image of Neil Armstrong on the moon was historically important the moment it was taken as was Tank Man by Jeff Widener. The first digital photograph ever taken (whenever that was) had historical importance. Historical definition being of or concerning history.

Having read the entire post and all the responses I still stand by what I have written above and the general consensus on the forum is that a photograph is a document, stat.After showing us two images and giving us the background stories behind both Jose asks:

is it really context that makes a document? Or is it time?

The first image for most of us is self explanatory; it is a hot air balloon depicting Colonel Gaddafi, we can more or less guess it is in the English countryside, probably at a balloon festival (I mean would anyone really commercially offer flights in such a contentious, even then, balloon? It could have been taken to record the festival or just due to a chance happening. Whilst out and about in Milton Keynes once, I happened to come across a Virgin balloon getting ready for take off and snapped a few frames as it was, for me, an unusual sight. It could have been taken as it is an amusing metaphor; Gaddafi was always said to be full of hot air and rhetoric, his ego larger than life etc etc.But that is my interpretation. His die hard supporters may look at this image and feel sorrow and anger, as we are always being told, photographs are polysemic after all.

The second is possibly a little harder to read. I’d guess that it was from a family album due to the discoloured corners that would have come from sticking it in. Therefore assume it was either family, close friend or possibly both. I can tell they are both men; a soldier due to the uniform but without knowing the precise details not the country, and a priest. The priest’s outfit pins the location to Mediterranean/European but then I’d have to give up.

The background story behind the capture of the first does not necessarily change how you first perceived the image, at the end of the day it’s a well taken, sharp image of a balloon that documented a day out and a chance encounter. What makes it more interesting today is the events that unfolded in Libya then, and continue to unfold today due to the power vacuum. But this post isn’t going to be about politics…It was originally a document of a day out, and as Jose said he “didn’t think of it as any more than something purely anecdotal, a good dinner table conversation starter.” It then became a teaching document as well as a document of a set time in history. I’d love to know what they did with it after!

The family snap shot becomes more interesting due to the history of the man, not the history of the image. Knowing that he had to escape and hide to avoid execution (without which Jose would not exist) that he hid in what sounds like horrendously scary conditions (if word of mouth stories are true and not subject to a little embellishment) adds a poignancy to the photograph. You feel more emotionally invested in it, but again it does not make it less or more of a document because of better understanding.

Reading all the responses and following the links also gave greater insight into certain areas but before I reference the links I want to comment upon some of the replies:

Amano on 27 August 2011 at 2:18 pm wrote:
One of the more interesting books on Photography that I have read is Photography: a very brief introduction by Steve Edwards… he states that the photograph can never really be separated from being both a document and a work of art. With an individual photograph, the extent to which it may be art or document can be determined and certainly many images lean to one side or the other.

Interesting stance as the debate of ‘is it art’ rages on…I don’t want to get into that prickly topic now but to a certain extent, yes, I think most things are art.

anned on 27 August 2011 at 2:19 pm wrote
I think the story supplied by Jose is what makes this photograph a document … Without the date, the place, the personal knowledge it would be very much less reliable as a document.

This I disagree with, the anecdote supplies context and a narrative but without it is still, by definition, a document. The question, if we are nit-picking was is it or when does it become a document. We aren’t being asked to question the reliability.

urszula jakubowicz 11 October 2014 at 9:30 am wrote
I believe that every photograph is a document, its importance however can change with time.

This I completely agree with time and hindsight can alter importance, meaning and how it is read by the audience.

Jim D N Smith 29 July 2013 at 7:02 pm wrote
Is the photograph authentic, and does this matter?

A case in point then would be the famous Valley Of The Shadow Of Death made by Roger Fenton in 1855, which is considered to be one of the oldest known photographs of warfare. It may well also be one of the oldest known examples of a staged photograph, with the path with cannonballs to make the photograph have more impact. I guess that one way or another it is a documentary photograph, although the interpretation might be more difficult depending on whether or not the viewer is concerned about the authenticity of the image.

This one I thought could be tricky, but came to the conclusion that although the authenticity might change the meaning and how it is viewed, the photograph would still be a document, even if nothing more than to document: the skill of the manipulation, the intent of the manipulation and the technology available at the time to manipulate the image –  be it digital manipulation or as mentioned in an earlier post the movement of dead American Civil War soldiers by Alexander Gardner.It is a document of the conflict but not an authentic representation.

PDog1917 November 2013 at 5:24 pm wrote
 My first point would be that in order to be a document the photograph needs to be of a ‘real’ event, so regarding this photograph (as Rob stated) “If nothing else it also documents that [Jose’s Grandfather] stood in front of a large wall on a sunny day.” That said, I do not question that a fictional novel is a document.

I think I know where PDog is coming from when he means a “real” event but even a staged event photograph is a real event, because something happened. it becomes a document that someone went to the effort to fabricate or re-enact and record that moment of ‘theatre’ or whatever it was. Ha, and he agrees that a fictional novel is still a document.High 5!

Ed Lerpiniere 21 September 2015 at 3:17 pm wrote
So, if any photographic image made is a document and a record, what about the images we make accidentally, or are of poor quality, badly lit, under or over exposed, heads missing etc.? From time to time we all shoot maybe one or two frames (or in my case many more) that are of feet, sky or nonsense, and many more that have other defects which make them unusable. They, by the dictionary definitions, are both documents and records, but are they useful? If one was to attach comments of pertinent observations about why they are as they are, they could be useful as learning points, without them they wouldn’t even elicit a grimace, they’d just be overlooked by all and sundry and possibly have some wondering glances passed.

Exactly that! They are documents to the fact we did something wrong, either pressed the button by mistake or used the wrong settings, no-one else may give them a second glance but they are still a document to your actions in that time and place.

mattjamesphotos 31 May 2014 at 7:28 pm wrote
I believe context, content, time and audience make a document.Although we may not all understand an image and its contents this does not make it any less of a document than a fully explained image.

A Selfie taken of a teenager posted on facebook or Twitter showing what she is wearing to go out on a Saturday night becomes a document straight away, it is documenting these facts but is of a little interest to anybody outside her circle of friends, this does not stop it becoming a document. With time this will become more of a document to her as it will remind her what she looked like, what she was wearing and stir memories of a particular night or time in her life. With more time this document may even be of interest to others as it is showing how people acted socially at a particular period in time. We do not need a narrative or a back-story of who and why this simply documents a period in time. Like the image of Jose Navarro’s grandfather, this is still a document without the narrative, but like the Selfie this image has much more meaning to him and his family and others when explained.

I agree with everything written here apart from the opening line that content, time and audience are needed to make a document. To be boring and parrot too many people, a  popular definition of what a document is:

‘A piece of written, printed or electronic matter that provides information or evidence or that serves as an official record.’

 

*update* I am now reading, dipping into and out of, Basics Creative Photography: Context and Narrative by Maria Short and have found some useful quotations with regards to this topic where she describes photographs as capturing ‘documented moments.’ (Short, M. 2011, p.9.)

Further responses to the links within the blog are on the next post

 

References

Maria Short, 2011. Basics Creative Photography 02: Context and Narrative. 0 Edition. AVA Publishing.

What makes a document? -Realism

Highlighters. Highlighters – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Gotta love a bit of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, almost as much asI love my highlighters. Do you think she would mind me appropriating her poem to describe my love of stationery? Or do you think, like some photographers, she would feel that her creation was not being put to a suitable purpose? When I nicked it for fun – to demonstrate my need for colourful writing implements – to talk about one of my modes for learning (I do enjoy a bit of kinesthetic “touchy-feely” learning. Seriously, I do find, despite using PDFs and reading PDFs, there is nothing better than to sit, pen in hand, frantically scribbling over bits of paper in front of me. When I get round to starting my physical learning log, hopefully next week, as I already have a pile of papers to insert, this will become more apparent) I wasn’t linking it to appropriation and usage, or Barthes but that’s the problem with immersing yourself into study mode. Everything links to photography! The other problem is branching off research…so I wrote “writing implement” and wondered “is there a better word for pen than that”…hmmm everything comes up with alternative words like trapped or sty so writing implement remained…the next thought was “where does the word ‘pen’ come from?” Easier to find and obvious really, original pens were invariably quills made from feathers, the word feather in Latin is Penna…so we learn everyday and not always solely that which we set out to learn!

But I have now been here for over half an hour and still not entered a post about what I am supposed to be doing..kicks self..Realism…

In the previous post concerning the history of documentary the emphasis was on how the images were used to capture historic moments, real places, real people, real events. The images placed in front of people were believable and believed. There appears to have been more trust placed in photography and its ability to accurately record a scene in front of the photographer. No-one then wondered if Andrew Gardner, renowned American Civil War photographer, had moved dead bodies into different positions, even going so far as taking them to different locations, adding props so he could record more powerful scenes. I liked the term coined by one of the commentators on this article; as Photoshop hadn’t been invented yet Gardner was in the habit of “realityshopping.”

Yet photography was, and is, used as a “documenting process” with the French Missions Héliographiques commissioned by the government to record their historic monuments, proffering an air of legitimacy to the art form:

Photography itself was the technical analogue to the absolute belief in the legitimacy of appearances, a belief whose philosophical expression was, of course, positivism and whose artistic expression was realism and naturalism. (Solomon-Godeau,1994 p.155)

And onto the exercise which is to read the first three sections (pp 1-8) of the essay “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism” by Kenneth L Walton and to write a reflective commentary in my learning log outlining my views on his ideas of photographic transparency… I have not read him before and have no inkling what this essay is about so diving in with fresh eyes and an open mind… see you in a while…

*update*

Well…that’s several hours of my morning gone! I have lots of thoughts opinions and side notes about this essay which can’t possibly be condensed into 200 words so what I shall do is waffle on about initial thoughts, and side research, then write a summary. I could probably do it in one word but that isn’t the aim of the game or possibly polite!

To begin, I like the way the essay opens up with quotes from opposing points of view. The first from André Bazin, a French critic, film theorist and social activist, who argues “The photographic image is the object itself,” and the other from Edward Steichen who stated that “Every photograph is a fake from start to finish.” However, that’s where I found myself feeling a bit dubious about the essay and as suspected he was taking Bazin’s quote literally. Or seemed to be arguing from that stance. Also Steichen, during World War I, had helped establish the first U.S. aerial reconnaissance operation and therefore knew the importance of accurate “real” images. Note the importance here of selective quotations to back up your argument or thesis as Bazin has also said about photographs that they are “a kind of decal or transfer” and “it is its tracings” which implies he recognises that they aren’t the object itself more of a copied image.

I’ll then jump to the final paragraph where Walton states “we have uncovered a major source of the confusion” within academic writings being the “failure to distinguish ….between a viewer’s really seeing something through a photograph and his fictionally seeing something directly.

My confusion seems to stem from all the flip flopping of the argument that Walton himself had. He tied himself in knots on the subject of Bazin; his language, I would go so far as to say was in places petty, simplistic and insulting, or is he merely using hyperbole to get his point across?

In the opening paragraph Walton tells us that Bazin and others consider photographs to be “extraordinarily realistic” and proceeds to rubbish his views from then on; one minute stating “perhaps we shouldn’t take his [Bazin’s] words [The photographic image is the object itself] literally” (another seriously dude? moment) then “there is no readily apparent non-literal reading of them” and that Bazin assumes ‘reality’ due to the mechanical process of capturing the image as opposed to “handmade” images. (down Walter Benjamin) Walton then states “That photography is a supremely realistic medium may be the common sense view,” citing Steichen to back him up that “it is by no means universal” casting doubt on this idea. However, reading on, Walton states “I shall argue that…it deserves to be called a supremely realistic medium.” Hang on I also just read him saying “My claim is we see quite literally, our dead relatives when we look at photographs.” Sorry, what? Or is he saying that Bazin was right just his reasoning was wrong? Or because Walton wasted a good bit of ink explaining what he meant by see we understand that he doesn’t mean his Grandfather is actually 8×6 whereas Bazin obviously meant that a lump of granite in California is that small…sorry being just as hypercritical as Walton.

I did find I agreed with many of the points he made to argue the case of public acceptance of images as factual, honest representations: the use of forensic photographs at trial, replays of sports events (think how useful goal mouth replays are now and racing photo-finishes) that certain images are regarded as invasion of privacy…if we argue photographs do not represent realism then we could argue that they are then not invading privacy.

Written in 1984 the essay touches upon photo-realistic paintings v photographs but skills appear to have moved on since then as can be seen here. This is mentioned as to separate why photographs are considered real and paintings aren’t, although both are representations and none are the thing itself (down Magritte). It is a slippery path to be on as you then get into the semantics of  them being interpretations by the photographer/artist and therefore open to the baggage each brings to the table. I did agree with his remarks that a photograph is always a photograph of something that actually exists despite it being disguised or playing a role, whereas a painting could be total fantasy eg his example of unicorns.

Then I fell about laughing at some of the examples of realism he gave; immediately after commenting on claims that the photographs of Abraham Lincoln are more realistic than paintings of him, is where he state that photography is special and deserves the label of being a “supremely realistic medium.”  Sorry what? I thought everyone knew about the stitching together of John Calhoun’s body and Lincoln’s head? Note the importance of choosing examples that  unequivocally support your argument.

There is a lot of repetition on the “special nature” of photography. I don’t see it as special just different. There is also a lot of emphasis on the interpretation of the word “see” as opposed to “perceive” oh, how easy it is to spend hours debating the meaning of a word. If I show someone a photograph and state “that’s my garden” I am sure they realise that I don’t mean it literally IS my garden, but rather a representation on paper or more likely on my phone, that we all understand  to be a perception of my garden.

Finally, five pages in we get to read about transparency, the main title of the essay. Walton argues that photographs are transparent, they enable us to have a perception of the world (Blink and you miss it) that seeing is a way to find out about the world and we see through photographs. How then can’t we see through paintings? If we look at a representation or whatever you want to call a photo and realise that it is just a snap shot in time and derive other information about it then why not the same of a painting. He chooses Henry the VIII as an example, saying we only see a representation of him and that a painting is fictional. But then he isn’t as fussy in his definition of fictional – being invented, make-believe or imaginary. If a true painting (and I’m not going down the route of constructed, politically biased paintings) Henry VIII it isn’t any of those. Although he might have argued that the painting of Anne of Cleeves was! For an image to be transparent, to be able to see the world through it you need to first understand the world it is partially describing.

Having read a lot about his Aunty Mabel she was probably grimacing because she’d just read his essay and had to summarise her view in 200 words! But I guess that is now what I need to do…

‘Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism’ by Kenneth L Walton

On reading the title I assumed that Transparent Pictures meant seeing the truth of and behind the images taken rather than seeing the world through them, but I was incorrect it was more conceptual. I don’t feel that on reaching the end of the sections I had to read Walton had ever reached any real conclusion of his own with regards to realism, as he does in places seem to argue against his own points. At the end of page 8 he acknowledges that there are differing points of view; confusion lies within those views due to a total failure to distinguish between accepting a photograph that can help you perceive the existence of an object/person and, through that an idea of the world beyond, and fictionally seeing something directly. This can be explained a little more clearly if you listen to an interview here which I found through another blog where Walton expands that if you see a photograph of Judy Garland dressed as Dorothy you see a photograph of Judy Garland but a picture of Dorothy.

His tone when discussing Bazin was disconcerting and examples and quotes did not necessarily help to prove many of the points he was trying to make, nor did his inconsistency when using the word ‘literally.’ I found it difficult to understand in places, not due to any technical jargon or confusing concepts just that he seemed to jump about a bit with his ideas.

Whilst I agree with a few of his observations on how and why the realism or accepted realism of images can be maintained, it all seemed to fall apart in places, maybe that’s because I felt aggravated by the points made above. To answer the exercise question of what do I think about photographic transparency I have to admit that I agree with his statement of seeing the world through photographs and that cameras and photography have opened up a new way of seeing. Although a person’s experiences, background and preexisting knowledge of the world will impact on that transparency. I don’t think it is special just different.

Some things to note for myself and future essay writing: the importance of good quotes, the importance of not appearing to undermine your own argument and to be coherent with points being made.

References

Copyright (2016) André Bazin – cinema and media studies – Oxford bibliographies – obo. Available at: http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199791286/obo-9780199791286-0006.xml (Accessed: 16 October 2016).

Heppenheimer, T.A. (2006) Steichen’s navy. Available at: http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/steichens-navy-11442318/?no-ist (Accessed: 16 October 2016).

Solomon-Godeau Salzmann – documents (2015) Available at: http://docslide.us/documents/solomon-godeau-salzmann.html (Accessed: 16 October 2016).

The bizarre practice of staging civil war photographs (2014) Available at: http://knowledgenuts.com/2014/11/24/the-bizarre-practice-of-staging-civil-war-photographs/ (Accessed: 16 October 2016).

What makes a document? – Research Point

I don’t really want to begin with trying to explain what constitutes a document as this is covered a bit further on, so will launch instead into the research point which is to look at the historical developments in documentary photography. To do this I feel it only fair to give a nod to documentary film as well.

Filmsite has an excellent list detailing the different types of categories there are and provides examples of each, this list could quite easily be assigned to different genres of documentary photography eg Biographical, Historic Event,Rock Concert/Festival, A sociological or ethnographic examination following the lives of individuals over a period of time, An expose, An examination of a specific subject area to name a few. Their definition of film documentary is also applicable as” non-fictional, “slice of life” factual works of art.”

Apparently the first ‘documentary’ re-creation was The Unwritten Law (1907) (subtitled “A Thrilling Drama Based on the Thaw-White Tragedy”) This dramatised the true-life murder of a well known architect, Stanford White, by a mentally unstable and jealous husband, Harry Kendall Thaw. The object of both their affections,Evelyn Nesbit,appeared as herself.

However, the first official ‘documentary’ was Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922), an ethnographic examination of the difficulties faced by Canadian Inuit Eskimos living in the Arctic. Interestingly it is reported that some of the film’s scenes of “obsolete customs” were in fact staged. Despite this Flaherty is  often regarded as the “Father of the Documentary Film.” It was his film Moana (1926) about Samoan Pacific islanders, that garnered the term”documentary” for the first time when reviewed in an article by director/producer/writer John Grierson where he also said it was “the creative interpretation of reality.” You can watch the film Nanook of the North here.

Just as an aside, I got all excited that the same article has a link underneath to the original broadcast of War of the Worlds that people thought was real so I know what I’ll be listening to later!!

But back to the task in hand…therefore with a nod to events and some photographers/images:

Brief Look at Historical Developments in Documentary Photography

things to note – Documentary photographs chronicle significant/historical events. As discovered above the term ‘Documentary’ itself antedates the genre which can be traced back to the 1800s.

1843 – David Octavious Hill creates social documentary photographs – present at the Disruption Assembly in 1843 when over 450 ministers walked out of the Church of Scotland assembly to found the Free Church of Scotland. He decided to record it by using photography, to capture the likenesses of all the ministers present.

1850’s– Missions Héliographiques – in 1851, the Commission des Monuments Historiques, an agency of the French government, selected five photographers to make photographic surveys of the nation’s architectural heritage. Documentary photographers Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan captured the horrors of American Civil War. 1855 – Roger Fenton Crimea War coverage.

1870’s William Jackson was commissioned by the Union Pacific to document the scenery along the various railroad routes he also photographed many Native American Indian tribes as well as the Yellowstone Lake Area which helped convince the U.S. Congress to make it the first National Park in March 1872.

1880’s – New smaller cameras made it easier to take photos of ordinary people’s lives in a less formal way. 1880- The first “Halftone” published in a newspaper.

1890’s – Jacob Riis, his book How the Other Half Lives depicted the slums of New York.- uses it for social reform. W H R Rivers 1898 Torres Straits Expedition.

1900’s – Lewis Hine, like Riis used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing child labour laws in the United States. 1905 the National Geographic changed from being a text-oriented publication closer to a scientific journal to featuring extensive pictorial content. Alfred Stieglitz – The Steerage, 1907. 1909 Albert Khan began his Archives of the Planet, over the next 22 years he sent many photographers to more than 50 countries around the globe to create a visual record.

Easier printing techniques – Newspapers realised that pictures, with easy-to-read captions and short paragraphs would capture the imagination and a new target audience. The Daily Mirror, launched in 1904, was the world’s first newspaper illustrated exclusively with photographs and was an instant success.

1910’s – 1913 Mexican Revolution  was one of the first to have been documented with photography throughout the war.1914 the arrest of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassin.This image is significant due to it’s historical value, this event has been regarded as the beginning point of the first world war. 1914-1918 coverage of WWI. 1917 sees the  development of the first commercial 35mm Leica camera although it was not introduced to the public until 1925.

1920’s –  saw the appearance of weekly picture magazines allowing for several pages to “tell a story and develop a theme through a series of pictures.” Probably the earliest picture magazine was the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung (Berlin Illustrated Newspaper) in 1928.Charles Sheeler photographs the Ford factory.

1930’s – The Farm Security Administration – Dorothea Lange , Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn  and other photographers – approximately 30 all told – were briefed to take “persuasive” photographs to cover the effects of the depression on rural slums. Leni Riefenstahl propaganda fims and photography promoted the values of Aryan superiority and Nazi ideology to the world. Henri Cartier-Bresson started capturing the world around him with his small discreet Leica.Bill Brandt published picture books such as The English at Home and A Night in London. He also undertook many Picture Post assignments.

1940’sMagnum-1947, Cartier-Bresson and photographers Robert Capa and David Seymour formed a picture agency called “Magnum”.
Photo Essays -1948  LIFE magazine photo essay, “Country Doctor” by W. Eugene Smith who spent 23 days in Kremmling, Colorado, chronicling the day-to-day challenges faced by  a general practitioner named Dr. Ernest Ceriani.

1950’s –  Photo magazines lose popularity –by the 1950s Picture Post had begun to lose its sense of purpose. Even the introduction of a selection of colour pages proved fruitless. Illustrated closed in 1958, Picture Post in 1957, Look in 1971. LIFE lingered on in more-or-less its original weekly form until 1972. Ken Domon photographs over 7000 images  in and around Hiroshima in 1957. 1958 Robert Franks publishes The Americans.

1960’s – Distortion and Manipulation of Images – although manipulation had been around for a while – huge subject not for here – in the late 1960’s a public execution was held over for 12 hours, as the evening light was too poor for the press to take pictures. 1968 Don McCullin shocks the world with his Vietnam images.

1970’s – Dianne Arbus continues to produce freakish images that she captured throughout the late ’50’s and ’60’s. Joel Meyerowitz began photographing in colour in 1962 and was an early advocate of the use of colour during a time when there was significant resistance to the idea of colour photography as serious art. In the early 1970s he taught the first colour course at the Cooper Union in New York City.Nick Ut – Napalm Girl, 1972. 1976 William Egglestone’s groundbreaking colour exhibition at MoMA

1980’s – Nan Goldin-Feminist photographer noted for her ground-breaking work among minority social groups.1988 Sally Mann begins publishing nude photos of her children. Adobe Photoshop was created in 1988 by Thomas and John Knoll. Jeff Widener – Tank Man, 1989

1990’s – 1991 first digital SLR, a modified Nikon F3. Sebastio Salgado joined Magnum photo agency in 1994, contributing “artistic, meaningful documents of global issues and cultures”, 1994 Martin Parr joins Magnum

2000’s – 2003: Four-Thirds standard for compact digital SLRs introduced with the Olympus E-1; Canon Digital Rebel introduced for less than $1000. 2005 Canon EOS 5D, first consumer-priced full-frame digital SLR, with a 24x36mm CMOS sensor for $3000. In January 2015, The International Academic Forum (IAFOR) announced the launch of the IAFOR Documentary Photography Award – an award which seeks to promote and assist in the professional development of emerging documentary photographers and photojournalists.

Some of the photographers and their images can be seen in this video

By no stretch of the imagination have I managed to include every invention/event/photographer that could have been included, but hopefully this gives a rough idea of how things have evolved and the effects that historical events and technological advancements have had on, not only the production of images, but also our attitudes as to how and why documentary images are made. They are used to inform, manipulate and in some instances amuse. Certain publications and organisations have pushed documentary to the fore and in different directions. Various awards ensure that the tradition of documentary photography continues and try to regulate the overt manipulation of some of the images. Looks to me, that even if difficult to categorise sometimes, Documentary Photography is alive and well!

References

Cosgrove, B. (2012) W. Eugene Smith’s landmark portrait: ‘Country doctor’. Available at: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Cosgrove, 2012)

Curtis, J. (no date) ‘Making sense of documentary photography’, (1).
(Curtis, no date)

Daniel, M. (2000) David Octavius hill (1802–1870) and Robert Adamson (1821–1848) (1840s) | essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of art history | the metropolitan museum of art. Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hlad/hd_hlad.htm (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Daniel, 2000)

Documentary films (2016) Available at: http://www.filmsite.org/docfilms.html (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Documentary films, 2016)

Graphic, N.Y. (1996) History of photography Timeline. Available at: http://photo.net/history/timeline (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Graphic, 1996)

International, W.W. (2015) Brief history of documentary photography. Available at: https://whistlingwoodsinternational.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/brief-history-of-documentary-photography/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(International, 2015)

jontowlson (2009) Nick Crafts. Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/jontowlson/a-short-history-of-documentary (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(jontowlson, 2009)

Ken Domon, Japan’s master of realism, receives first overseas exhibition | the Japan times (2016) Available at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2016/05/27/arts/ken-domon-japans-master-realism-unveils-first-overseas-exhibition/#.WAJ1NvkrLq4 (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Ken Domon, Japan’s master of realism, receives first overseas exhibition | the Japan times, 2016)

visual-arts-cork (no date) Documentary photography: Characteristics, history. Available at: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/photography/documentary.htm#history (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(visual-arts-cork, no date)

Written (2016) The 2016 IAFOR documentary photography award calls for ‘justice’ entries. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/05/the-2016-iafor-documentary-photography-award-calls-for-justice-entries/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Written, 2016)

Zeiger, M. (2012) A trip through time. Available at: http://www.afar.com/magazine/a-trip-through-time (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Zeiger, 2012)

Defining Documentary – Robbie Cooper

This was a new name for me to research, which is always a fun thing to do :o) Robbie Cooper was born in 1969 and therefore has been brought up in a world where there has been quite a few technological advancements that would have been gradually introduced throughout his childhood and early adulthood. A few years younger than me, he would have seen colour TVs appear, have had less than 4 TV channels, possibly not had PCs at school and laughs at 1980’s films where brick like mobile phones were considered state of the art, but unlike even younger people remembers owning one!

Maybe it then comes as no surprise that whilst discussing the gaming world, with a client he was photographing, and how we interact within the virtual world, he was fascinated by how real life people see themselves when venturing out into the ether.

Starting in 2002 Cooper travelled the world for three years, capturing images of 62 virtual world players, placing their portraits next to their avatars. (Games/platforms such as Lineage, Second Life, City of Heroes, Everquest and World of Warcraft) The resultant photographs have been described as:

” poignant, powerful, remarkably eye-opening….fascinating and [a] profoundly human glimpse of our quest for self-hood, identity, and social belonging”

His book,  Alter Ego: Avatars and their Creators – published in 2007 – also contains micro-essays by each gamer  that “offer a layered look at how we assemble our personas in a way that transcends the physicality of our bodies, our genetics, and our circumstances.”

It amused me that he had a virtual launch party for the book.

On looking at some of the examples online I found that write up to be accurate. People swapped genders, looked like themselves, but older or younger, whilst others used the opportunity to transform themselves into hero figures, or merely wished to appear normal in a virtual world where in their day to day existence they fail to be recognised by anything other than their colour or disability.

I think that this series of photographs not only serves to document a fascinating period in our technological advancements  and an amazing pop culture phenomena, but there is an insight into how people choose or view their own identities. I strongly identify with living in a virtual world, I connect with friends around the globe through Facebook, previously I have been a moderator for a large ISP volunteering to host chat rooms and monitor message boards. In these worlds people were just words on a screen, you could choose the colour and style of font, use add-on programmes to share music with each other and have private IMs where you could be anyone you wanted to be. We didn’t have avatars, but if you swapped images who knew if they were real, and occasionally they would be cartoons or obviously fake. Most of the time I “sat” in my red velvet dungeon with whips n wellies with a Kevlar vest ready to hand in case the natives got restless! Good job they couldn’t see me in my dressing gown, biscuit in hand sat in a computer chair held together with gaffer tape! And now I communicate across the world with other students some of whom I have met others wave across the wires… oh and Habbo Hotel…bit of a fad, we didn’t use that much but was a giggle for a while… it’s ok, you can run away and slam the door behind you now…

Each of the participants personal accounts “provide a richness of detail and honest psychological insight to each of the players and how they relate to, and value, their alter egos.” I can also empathise with this. The volunteer programme I worked with was cancelled and we had to delete our host names by a certain deadline, we all sat in a chat room watching all familiar names vanish from our “buddy lists” one by one… Even now many years on it still feels slightly raw thinking about the close knit community we had that went overnight. I still keep in contact with some but it isn’t the same. Without having the book and reading all the information it’s hard to say if their emotional investment comes across, but to anyone who doubts, the virtual world is far more real than can be imagined.

For me this body of work is, on a personal level, a fantastic example of visual ethnography and of how modern technology can influence new documentary work.

In particular the quote in the coursework really rang true for me:

A documentary [photograph,film] takes an audience to an existing or past reality and is so compelling that they can empathise with mind, emotion and imagination. In that sense documentary is an ambitious creative and critical enterprise (de Jong, Knudsen & Rothwell, 2011, p23)

I have written a lot about Alter Egos but in 2008, inspired by his previous body of work, Cooper began to work on a similar project called Immersion.  The photographs are taken from from head-on film footage of children as they play video games such as Halo 3, Call of Duty, GTA 4, Tekken and Star Wars Battlefront. Using a technique developed by film maker Errol Morris dubbed “Interrotron”,’ where autocues were adapted to project the screen display of the game on to the lens of the camera,  therefore capturing the intense expressions of concentration as the children immerse themselves into these games.  Given the violent nature of some the mix of deadpan or relish is quite disconcerting.

Planned as an ongoing project it is disappointing that all links to  his webpages seem to be dead so I couldn’t discover much about the final end result. This is a great example of visual ethnography ; Cooper collaborating with a psychologist and sociologist “to interpret the results in light of the psychological profiles of the individual children.” Whilst I found this interesting to watch and, as a parent relate-able, I did not find it as emotionally engaging as Alter Egos. But it is an excellent example of how to develop and sustain a practice, of how one project can influence another and, by collaborating, can open your work up to different audiences. When asked if what he was doing was either sociological research or an art project, Cooper emphatically replied, ‘Both.’

A link to some of the video footage can be found here.

‘It seems possible that there’s a link between violent games and social aggression, bullying or exclusion; but whether the violent game is the biggest factor in that, it’s hard to say. I think a lot of what has been said so far about the effect of media violence on children doesn’t take into consideration the psychological make-up of individual kids, and how big an impact the different types of media violence have on different children.’

References:

*, N. (2014) MY AVATAR, MY ALTER EGO – the other. Available at: http://www.the-other.info/2014/avatar-alter-ego (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(*, 2014)

Cawston, R. (2030) ‘Alter ego: Avatars and their creators’, Robbie Cooper. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/arts/alterego_4620.jsp (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Cawston, 2030)

Cooper, R. and LensCulture (no date) Alter ego: Avatars and their creators – photographs by Robbie Cooper. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/robbie-cooper-alter-ego-avatars-and-their-creators (Accessed: 15 October 2016).

(Cooper and LensCulture, no date)
Leith, S. (2008) The immersion project. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3563534/The-Immersion-project.html (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Leith, 2008)

Popova, M. (2011) Alter ego: Portraits of Gamers next to their Avatars. Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2011/12/14/alter-ego-robbie-cooper/ (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Popova, 2011)

Robbie, C. (2008) Immersion. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/video/magazine/1194833565213/immersion.html (Accessed: 15 October 2016).
(Robbie, 2008)

Defining Documentary – Richard Billingham

And so it begins, first few blog posts done and reading the initial few pages there is some new terminology and new names to research. A few familiar faces to make me feel both relieved and dread as I remember picking up Camera Lucida and sitting with a thesaurus in the other hand….still onwards and upwards…

Despite not starting the coursework as promptly as I should I have kept in touch with exhibitions, publications and talks and will get around to writing them up and adding them to the research category. Newer name for me to look at is Robbie Cooper; I was introduced to the photo-book Rays a Laugh by Richard Billingham a few years back and found it really interesting on many levels; they were intimate personal photographs of his closest family members, there was no censorship, there was no posing, the images portray what was there, he had a no holds barred approach. What I later found out was that these were never taken with intent to publish as photographs. Billingham had always wanted to be a painter and the random snaps were intended to be reference only for his paintings. Who knows how he would have translated these on canvas? Would he have softened the impact of the flying cat and dishevelled parents, used artistic licence to add a more “palacial” backdrop or would his paintings have been as brutally honest?

I did find this super YouTube video showing the book  in all its glory.

What I like about this book is that it shows the strength of the images, you need no captions to feel the undercurrent of emotions and their circumstances, that the sequence of images reveal occasional tension, but obvious affection between people and animals. The interspersed shots of birds indicate to me that there was more to life than the claustrophobic flat.

At first I did wonder, like many, if Billingham was exploiting his family, taking advantage of being the insider to achieve such intimate shots, but then I stopped and considered the photographs I have taken over the years and realise that the drunken friends, naked children, harmless stumbles are all taken with affection and with no malicious intent and, if not taken with express permission at the time, are regarded as “fair game” within ordinary life. Permission was obviously given after for them to be used in this fashion and I found it quite refreshing that once done:

He no longer takes their pictures. To continue now that they have become objects of curiosity would, he said, indeed be exploitation.

References

Angus Crombie (2012) Richard Billingham ray’s a laugh. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_T_AKPfVdI (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
In-line Citation:
(Angus Crombie, 2012)

Chesshyre, R. (2001) Meet the parents. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4726608/Meet-the-parents.html (Accessed: 11 October 2016).
In-line Citation:
(Chesshyre, 2001)

Miranda Gavin on Documentary Photography

What is documentary photography?

The above is a short video interview with Miranda Gavin, a freelance writer, photographer, blogger and educator. Made about five years ago, some of her questions are still as valid now as they were then. These days, amongst other things, she writes on The Roaming Eye Blog (formerly Hotshoe Blog ) which in her own words is:

an eclectic dip into the world of contemporary photography and lens-based media from a multidisciplinary perspective.

So what are my reactions to her viewpoints and questions raised? Firstly I think we need to establish exactly what Documentary Photography is in essence, before we decide which photographs do or no not fall into this category. As far as I can establish Documentary Photography is photography that follows a single topic or story in-depth, over time and normally used to record significant and historical events – both in the outside world and also for more personal and intimate occasions. In theory it should deepen the audiences understanding and emotional connection to a given topic and historically was presented in an unaltered, truthful format- somewhat along the lines of photojournalism. Abigail Solomon-Godeau (1991) stated that ‘in the nineteenth century almost all photography was what would later be described as ‘documentary’.'(cited in Wells. 1997, p.63)

These days photographers have become more creative and artistic with their photographs but they still document the event, or provoke a need within the audience to alter a given situation.

A prime example would be Uffe Weng who successfully staged images to highlight the Greenpeace protest against the Lego/Shell partnership. Others closer to home would be the twee newborn baby photo or creative wedding albums widely available.

Now, as Gavin points out, and even more so since this interview, modern technology and ever changing publishing outlets have blurred the lines and made differentiating some work quite tricky. Personally, I quite enjoy the more creative/surreal images produced and can recognise their intrinsic value, as well as the need for more “straight/truthful” photo stories.

Gavin wonders if older terminology is still relevant within photography today – ‘reportage, photojournalism, documentary.’ Well, if Photoshop can use ‘dodge’ and ‘burn’ I can’t see why not, although maybe some newer ones could be thrown into the mix.

Picking up on her comment with regards to the ratio of women:men on photography courses, it is interesting to note that although the ratio may not be as large, women seem to out number men in most UK universities – so maybe her reasons given are not just availability of access etc. Having said that without digital photography I doubt that I would be on this course, but that opportunity to use digital is also still available to men. However, I do think that her remarks on the topics covered, and how the female viewpoint will impact upon the bodies of work being produced are valid. Most notably I can think of the recent (ish) exhibition on Motherhood and Identity which included Elina Brotherus’ staged self portraits documenting her failed IVF attempts.

From reading annasocablog I found the following interesting reading:

The April 2014 issue of the BJP is entitled Women only. In the editorial comment, Diane Smyth, deputy editor, states: I’ve been struck by how male-dominated photography is.” She tallies up the numbers of Magnum members: 8 women out of 85 members of whom only 4 are living; VII Photo has 21 photographers, 5 of whom are women; only 14% of the entries to into this year’s World Press Photo were women. By changing the gender balance of practising photographers, you would indeed change the content of documentaries.

Just as it always was, documentary photography is produced for everyone, to reinforce their ideas or alter their perspective, you will either agree or disagree with the points they are trying to make, feel strong emotions – positive or negative – or feel indifferent as you don’t care about the subject matter. In order to reach a large audience you do need to consider what platforms you are going to use. Another random side note: nosing about, apparently more women than men use Instagram so if wanting to raise awareness of testicular cancer don’t use Instagram…unless you target the girlfriends to do the checking and nagging (insert cheeky smiley) so maybe that isn’t such a bad idea….

The remarks made with regards to colour accuracy etc don’t just apply to documentary; advertisers, designers, fashion houses, artists et al must cry when they think of the small mobile phone screens being used to view their work. How many laymen colour correct their dust covered screens, which sit in the full glare of the sun….? In this respect the controllable printed image is still very important, but then this raises the question of printed where and how? Magazines and books do not always do justice to larger images. Who controls what advert an article is placed next to? Badly placed ads

To see a genuine print limits the audience to those who go to exhibitions and that won’t get your message across. So, in truth, to send a message these days you have to be prepared to use multiple platforms and not worry too much about the finer detail on some; the message often outweighs the clarity of the image. (Was the dress blue or gold and white?) Do we ask the photographer or the audience …shudders thinking of Barthes whispering in my ear about dead authors…what category it should be placed in? I guess that only matters if the reader only flicks to a given section within a photography magazine.

I did find I found exception to the idea that documentary work wasn’t ‘commissioned’ as much was and still is, Nick Hedges for example, was commissioned by Shelter in 1968 to expose “the poor housing conditions and abject poverty being endured by people across Britain.”

Interesting video which asked more questions than gave answers, which I guess was the intention and certainly made me do the usual wandering thoughts hence more than the required 200 words reply……

references:

Hedges, N. and Museum, N.M. (no date) Make life worth living: Nick Hedges’ photographs for shelter 1968–72. Available at: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/exhibitions/make_life_worth_living (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Shontell, A. (2011) The 22 most hilarious, unfortunately placed ads ever. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/22-funny-bad-ad-placements?IR=T#-1 (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

1611, annag (2014) Annasocablog. Available at: https://annasocablog.wordpress.com/category/coursework/part-1/page/2/ (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Putz, H. (2016) Home truths – the photographers’ gallery. Available at: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/photography-motherhood-and-identity (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Association, P. (2016) Gender gap in UK degree subjects doubles in eight years, Ucas study finds. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/jan/05/gender-gap-uk-degree-subjects-doubles-eight-years-ucas-study (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Vaughan, A. (2014) Lego ends shell partnership following Greenpeace campaign. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/09/lego-ends-shell-partnership-following-greenpeace-campaign (Accessed: 10 October 2016).

Wells, L. (ed.) (1996) Photography: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.

What is documentary photography? (2016) Available at: https://vimeo.com/29752787 (Accessed: 10 October 2016).