Part One: The photograph as document

Exercise

Now that you’ve reached the end of Part One, reflect on what you’ve learned in your learning log or blog.

1)   What was your idea of documentary photography before you worked on Part One? How would you now sum it up?

 2) What are the differences between documentary, reportage, photojournalism and art  Photography?

These are the differences between the various forms of documentary photography:

 Documentary: Covers a variety of genres, news, journalism, art. Documentary can be an  accurate representation of an event or biased in some way.

 Photojournalism: News journalism which uses imagery; it may not be completely factual  or unbiased. Though it may have objective intentions it may be influenced by the publishers agenda.

 Reportage: is a more subjective way of storytelling through images. The may be a story implied from the point of view of one person, or be a more distanced style

 Art photography: In the reams of documentary this is documentary photography which is    an art form in its own right, as an expression of reality. Documentary style photography can  be used to challenge what is real. It may be an objective style of photography that makes a point by creating fictional, manufactured, and therefore subjective realities.                   

Prior to this learning I thought documentary photography was primarily news reporting and factual, although I was aware there were elements that could cause bias.

Having worked on Part one my viewpoint on documentary photography has changed. I have spent time philosophising about the “truth status” of photography and discovered there are many factors that affect this. I have visited several exhibitions over the last few weeks in particular which have added to my body of thought:

  • Wildlife photographer of the year 2016. The Natural History Museum. 8.11.16
  • ? The image as question. Michael Hoppen Gallery. London. 8.11.16
  • The radical eye: Modernist photography from the Sir Elton John collection. Tate Modern. London 12.11.16
  • World Press Photography Exhibition. Festival Hall. London. 13.11.16

My opportunity to visit these exhibitions coincided with the end of my work on documentary photography here in part one, but they were still useful indifferent ways. So not to hold up the posting of my assignment I will write up the exhibitions generally for my learning log later; I have however  added some notes to my earlier postings to note how these have affected my thinking on the coursework previously completed.

The impact of the “? Image as a question” exhibition on me is particularly relevant to my opinion now about documentary photography. I pose the thought that 100 years ago documentary photography was possibly more pure than today, being used primarily to record facts. Conversely the boundaries of documentary photography are more blurred; the intent of the photographer is key to how objective the photograph as a document is as is the context and narrative provided or masked by the photographer, editor or publisher.

 

Part One The photograph as document

Project 5 The manipulated image

Exercise

Instead of using double exposures or printing from double negatives we now have the technology available to us to make these changes in post-production, allowing for quite astonishing results.

Use digital software such as Photoshop to create a composite image which visually appears to be a documentary photograph but which could never actually be.

This is the first time that I have created a composite images and I composed them with the help of on line tutorials. I like my ideas for the images, however I know that I have a lot more to learn to improve my technique. I can see that in particular I need to improve the softness at the edges. I intend to spend further time developing this technique in the near future.

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I was fascinated by some of the images that I saw first-hand when visiting The radical eye: Modernist photography from the Sir Elton John Collection exhibition, (The Tate Modern, visited 12.11.16) following my attempts at manipulated images. In particular the Herbert Bayer “Humanly impossible” self-portrait (1932) where his arm is truncated and shown as detached and yet looks remarkably real. The notes by the photograph describe how at that time it was achieved by a photo montage technique, where the images were cut and pasted, then recombined and sometimes re-photographed to smooth the surface of the image out, thus creating an alternative reality. Similarly Josef Breittenbach’s “Forever and ever” (1938), though this photograph is more obviously a photo montage.

If they can achieve such remarkable images by physically manipulating the images what we can achieve today with technology and the digital image is immense and I look forward to experimenting further.

 

Part One The photograph as document

Project 4

The gallery wall – documentary as art

Research point

Look online at Paul Seawright’s work, Sectarian Murders.

  • How does this work challenge the boundaries between documentary and art? Listen to Paul Seawright talk about his work at: http://vimeo.com/76940827 [accessed 24/02/14]
  • What is the core of his argument? Do you agree with him?
  • If we define a piece of documentary photography as art, does this change its meaning?

 This work revisited the places of sectarian attacks in the 1970s. The power of the work “lies in the shocking gulf between the details of demise of the victim and the banality of the locations” as represented by his photos and the former texts from newspaper stories of the time (Seawright 1988). Admittedly it is hard to relate the images to the text. Once I discovered that they were shot fifteen years after the events I could better understand how the pictures related to the news stories, as I could view them as aftermath photos and find meaning for them.

Having viewed Paul Seawright’s video, the core of his argument is for photography to be recognised as both art and documentary it needs to have enough narrative;  if too ambiguous then the narrative is obscured, however if too explicit then it becomes too journalistic, so it’s a fine balance. He says that the ideal is to “make work that visually engages people, that draws them in and then that gives itself up, gives its meaning slowly” (Seawright 2016).

Presenting photographs as documentary and art does pose the risk of the image not being considered a reality. However as Seawright suggests, if there is no context then there is a risk that its meaning will be changed. I think that if the image is given some context (for example location, date, or by the contents of the frame) then it will have some meaning which the reader can then extend rather than ascribe the wrong meaning.

References

Catalyst: Paul Seawright (2016) Available at: https://vimeo.com/76940827 (Accessed: 19 October 2016).

 Paul Seawright. Sectarian murder (1988) (no date) Available at: http://www.britishphotography.org/artists/17199/ei/1739/paul-seawright-paul-seawright-sectarian-murder-1988 (Accessed: 19 October 2016).

 Bibliography

Sectarian murder (no date) Available at: http://www.paulseawright.com/sectarian/ (Accessed: 19 October 2016).

Exercise

Sarah Pickering – Public order series

Look at some more images from this series on the artist’s website.

  • How do Pickering’s images make you feel?
  • Public Order an effective use of documentary or is it misleading?

Make some notes in your learning log.

In this series she documents, with images, a police training centre used to train the police for civil disturbances. Once you know this fact it explains the stillness and lack of people in the photographs. I would say that it is documentary if you know before you view it that the locations are mock ups and training locations, although are they usually empty like this? A truer documentary surely would be with the facilities in use with action shots, or even aftermath images – it seems too tidy.

Viewing her images makes me feel: empty, curious, uncomfortable, flat, depressed, cold, intrigued and puzzled as I’m really not sure what her intention is.

Reference:

Sarah Pickering – Public order series (http://www.sarahpickering.co.uk/Works/Pulic-Order/workpg-01.html accessed 7.11.16)

Part One The Photograph as document

Project 3 Reportage

Colour and the street

Exercise

Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style.

In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats.

What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why?

I was passing my local town market and wasn’t planning to shoot, but as it looked interesting I quickly collected my camera from my car and shot for about 30 minutes only.

In order to make a fair comparison between the two formats I used the same images and presented them in colour and then black and white.

  1. Black and white images

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I think the most satisfying black and white images were:

  • Youths, the street sleeper and the market café with the signs at the back because of the contrast in the colours.
  • The old lady is better in black and white than colour where the colours distract from the mood.
  • The least successful image in black and white is the traffic warden image.  I took the photograph because of the contrasting yellow and red colours, which can’t be determined in black and white, where the picture falls flat.

2.  Colour images

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I think the most satisfying colour images were:

  • The street sleeper due to the colour accents (this was also successful in black and white for other reasons).
  • The market café as the burgundy at the back draws you eye in. (this was also successful in black and white for other reasons).
  • The women under the balls due to colour repetition.
  • The cyclists at the market as the mood/weather is obvious and heightened against the bright street signage.
  • The gourmet food van as the colour accents add to the happy mood.

What difference does it make?

Advantages of Colour:

  • Gives more context inferring season, time, mood, period (fashion colours)
  • Is more contemporary
  • Can draw you in especially accents or a bright hue and is important if emphasising contrasting colours like green and red which appear similar in black and white.
  • Gives a heightened sensation of things “if photography is about describing, then colour describes them more” (Meyerowitz cited in Louise, 2012)

Advantages of Black and white:

  • Colour can be distracting; giving additional unwanted context.
  • Strong colours like red can be distracting in colour images.
  • Colour can convey the wrong message for the image, for instance a sad of vunerable portrait wearing red would probably be better presented in black and white.
  • Black and white often implies it is a historical photograph
  • Can be powerful when there is a strong shapes or silhouette.
  • Can be useful for removing the distraction of an unhelpful streak of colour.

My conclusions:

My personal preference for shooting and presentation is colour as a visual language. However I recognise that there are times when a shot already captured might be best presented in colour, also that there are times when capturing and presentation might be best in black and white. It depend upon what you wish to communicate.

If I was planning to shoot in black and white I would seek out more graphical lines, good contrasts and a broad tonal range between blacks and whites, strong shapes and patterns.

Reference

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Part One The photograph as document

Project 3 Reportage

Research point

Do some research into contemporary street photography. Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Graham, Joel Sternfeld and Martin Parr are some good names to start with, but you may be able to find further examples for yourself.

  • What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly black and white?

Colour and the street

Street photography began life in black and white, in an age when colour photography was deemed unrealistic because it carried connotations of advertising. Henri Cartier- Bresson, Eve Arnold, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, amongst many others, paved the way for reportage to be used in an artistic way, with no functional purpose other than to tell viewers about life from the point of view of the photographer. As colour photography began to be accepted as an art form in the late twentieth century, street photography followed suit.

Martin Parr (b 1952)

A UK photojournalist who uses heightened colour photography in an almost surreal sense and has said “you either get my photography or you don’t” (Golden, 2013). He “has consistently tested the boundaries of documentary style” (Cotton, 2014) sometimes using a handheld camera with flashlight combined with a macro lens to focus close up on a subject. He uses humour to convey consumerism as a visual language and is known for capturing the essence of Britishness especially in his documentary series The Last Resort (mid 80’s) where he portrayed Thatcherite Brighton.

I saw some of his work first hand when I visited his exhibition Unseen (Guildhall art gallery London, 4 March – 31 July 2016). He used his unprecedented access to high-profile occasions (as the City of London’s photographer-in-residence) to shoot behind the scene images of the pomp and glory in the city of London such as private ceremonies, dignitaries and Banquets. Katherine Pearce, Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery says: “Parr reveals the ‘unseen’, literally and metaphorically. He pays attention to detail and spots things that make you think again about what you’re seeing.” (Pearce, 2016).

I particularly liked the unusual viewpoints that he used such as this image shot from behind the queen, and the way he captures impromptu moments.

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Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

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Martin Parr 2014 (Kallaway 2016b)

He presents the city and its rituals in a variety of ways, such as fun, as boring, as incomprehensible. I actually wondered if he was “taking the mickey” out of the ceremonies and traditions in the way he presents them without any reverence, but then maybe that’s just his way?

Joel Sternfield (b 1944)

He was one of the pioneers of colour photography known for large-format images that capture the American roadside. His body of work On This Site: Landscapes in Memoriam (1966), at first sight seem to be random locations and yet it transpires that these were all previous crime scenes. He applies his studied observation of colour to the everyday he found as he travels taking full length photographs of people where “Each picture tells a story via the person’s physical appearance and the rich details of their surroundings” (Sternfield cited in Getty, nd). These portraits “propose the facts of what has transpired” (Cotton, 2014).

 Interestingly whilst researching Sternfield I came across the story of this photograph which interests me particularly in light of my earlier research into objectivity in photography.

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  (Sternfield 1978)

In the photo you see a fireman buying pumpkins whilst a fire crew fight a fire in the house behind. On first sight you might think the fireman was being negligent however it transpires that this was a training exercise which the fireman was on a break from. The photograph was apparently the most iconic image of his career, though published without captions other than location and date, “if this picture is deceptive, it’s only because we’ve deceived ourselves” (Keats, 2012).

Joel Meyerowitz (b 1938)

Is a street, Landscape and portrait photographer, influenced originally by Robert Frank. During the 1960s he worked in black and white with 35mm cameras looking for the extraordinary on the streets. In the 1970s he used colour in revolutionary way with larger cameras; he said that the small camera “taught me energy and decisiveness and immediacy… the large camera taught me reverence, patience, and meditation” (cited in Mulligan, 2005). Apparently he learnt that with so much action on the streets he just had to shoot and later discuss and think about the photos. “A lot of what I am looking for is astonishment” he says (cited in O’Hagan, 2012).

He is probably best known for his 9/11 photos Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (2006), the only photographer allowed onto the site immediately afterwards; the US Government later mounted exhibitions using his work.

I can identify with his feeling that colour gives him the sensation of things, a richness and more description. “If photography is about describing things, then colour describes them more” (cited in Louise, 2012). I also like the way that he describes a body of work as a building block of visual language “These pictures are all little gestural elements that don’t necessarily add-up on their own to anything profound, … they have to be interesting and interlocking in a way that you could fuse them in runs… to be stating a sort of collective of ideas into one thing that will carry the reader along”. (2point8, nd).

  He describes his use of context and relationships in images well. I found his reasoning for using a Leica as opposed to a single lens reflex (SLR) camera very interesting, as I had never thought about and SLR as being one eye, whereas with the Leica you have one eye in the camera and one outside due to the positioning of the viewfinder, so that you see the world and its context.  He explains “What you put in the frame determines the photograph… what you put in and where you cut the rest of the 360 degreesas the world continues outside of the frame; so what you put in and what you leave out are what determines the meaning, potential of your photograph” (YouTube, 2012). Certainly his photographs’ suggest relationships not representing objects.

 Paul Graham (b.1956)

Is an English documentary photographer, who was one of the first to photograph documentary in colour. He believes that photographs are subtle and deserve to be looked at with respect. He likes to uncover things that people might miss. His series A1- The Great North Road (1083) is one example of ordinary places, in this case on an arterial road.

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(Coomes 2011)

This and other of his eighties work enforced the importance of using colour in documentary photography to expand its visual message. “The photography I most respect pulls something out of the ether of nothingness…it is a shimmer of possibility” (cited in O’Hagan, 2011). He says that when he takes photographs he is questioning how we photograph the world and asking what is the world like?

References

Coomes, P. (2011) Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-13133461 (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Cotton, C. (2014) The photograph as contemporary art. 3rd edn. London, United Kingdom: Thames & Hudson.

Golden, R. (2013) Masters of photography. 3rd edn. London: Sterling Pub Co.

Getty museum (n,d). Joel Sternfeld. Available at: http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/3731/joel-sternfeld-american-born-1944/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016a) Guildhall Art Gallery. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/image-library/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Kallaway (2016b) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr. Available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

 Keats, J. (2012) Do not trust this Joel Sternfeld photograph. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathonkeats/2012/09/06/do-not-trust-this-joel-sternfeld-photograph/#50225726b22f (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Louise (2012) Joel Meyerowitz: Icon with a Leica – the Leica camera Blog. Available at: http://blog.leica-camera.com/2012/04/02/joel-meyerowitz-icon-with-a-leica/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016).

Mulligan, T. (2005) A history of photography: From 1839 to the present; the George Eastman house collection. Edited by Therese Mulligan and David Wooters. 25th edn. Köln, Germany: Taschen GmbH.

Pearce, K (2006) cited in: Kallaway (2016) Unseen city: Photos by Martin Parr available at: http://mediacentre.kallaway.com/guildhall-art-gallery/press-releases/unseen-city-photos-by-martin-parr. (Accessed 17.10.16).

 You tube (2012) Joel Meyerowitz –‘What you put in the frame determines the photograph. Available at: http://youtu.be/Xumo7_JUeMo (Accessed 17.10.16)

2point8 (n, d) Available at: http://2point8.whileseated.org/2007/12/03/joel-meyerowitz-interview-part-1/ (Accessed: 17 October 2016b).

Bibliography

Another mag (n,d) Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8073/martin-parrs-last-resort (Accessed: 17 October 2016a).

Part One The photograph as document

Project 2 Photojournalism

Thoughts on some viewpoints about documentary photography:

  1. Charity – Martha Rosler

Do you think Martha Rosler is unfair on socially driven photographers like Lewis Hine? Is there a sense in which work like this is exploitative or patronising? Does this matter if someone benefits in the long run? Can photography change situations?

Photography’s ability to effect social reform was championed at the end of the 19th century by photographers working for charities or government agencies. Roy Stryker head of FSA’s historical section gave the photographers “shooting scripts” selected the images added captions to help “Transform images of everyday moments into a powerful social document” ( Baker et al, 2016)

Martha Rosler, a Brooklyn based photographer and writer in her essay “The contest of meaning” (Rosler, 1981) offers her thoughts on documentary photographers photographing poverty. She argues that “Documentary, as we know it, carries (old) information about a group of powerless people to another group addressed as socially powerful” (Rosler p 179, ) and insists that photographing poverty does not bring about social change, only testifies ”to the bravery or (dare we name it?) the manipulativeness and savvy of the photographer who dared to enter the situation and showed others places they don’t go to” (Rosler p180, 1981). She also cites the example of the photograph by Dorothea Lange, Migrant mother (1936), one of the worlds most reproduced photographs, where when the original subject later aged 78 living in a small trailer, actually asked what good did the photo actually do her? She highlights that Szarkowski suggests that a new generation of photographers had moved documentary photography away from improving the world and that they have more personal aims  although she feels that he makes a weak case for this (La Grange, 2005).

It cannot be a bad thing that the camera added to journalistic reports of social life rarely seen by middle class people. Hine was a prolific photographer of people at work and ”dedicated to the cause of using his images in the service of social reform” (Wells, 2015). The impact of his images on social conditions may not have been immediate but it would be difficult to prove that it had none. Danish born Riis, a reporter turned photographer, photographed social conditions at work and at home and ”grew frustrated by his inability to convince people of the nature of the poverty” (Wells, 2015), however he persevered.

It seems to me that sometimes images are taken for their aesthetics, sometimes for their power to shock or even to incite action and sometimes for both. To say that photographing poverty or degradation has no impact on social change is a generalistion. When images are taken and presented in order to bring change about or taken as art doesn’t designate whether social change may come about because of them. If the subjects are comfortable with being photographed and not later exploited, or even unknowingly photographed but not later exploited then there can be little harm in doing so and it may bring about some change through raised awareness. The context and narrative provided is along side the image is vital if  to transmit the correct meaning; for instance Lange also photographed “The damaged child” ( 1936), an image of a little girl with a black eye – Lange actually wrote on the back of the photograph “The damage is already done….so much more poignant than the title the damaged child that you always see in the books” (Elton John cited in Baker et al, 2016). In fact he gives an example of the power of photography for social change, citing how the citizenship photos of 9\11 were for sale at ground zero with the proceeds going to the victims.

Compassion fatigue – Susan Sontag

“In these last decades ‘concerned’ photography has done at least as much to deaden conscience as to arouse it.”  (Sontag, 1979, p.21)

Do you think images of war are necessary to provoke change? Do you agree with Sontag’s earlier view that horrific images of war numb viewers’ responses? Read your answer again when you’ve read the next section on aftermath photography and note whether your view has changed. See also: http://lightbox.time.com/2014/01/28/ when-photographs-of-atrocities-dont-shock/#1 [accessed 24/02/14]  

Susan Sontag (1933-2004) was an American writer, film maker teacher and political activist. She began to write about photography in the 1970s, one of her best known books On Photography (1979) analyses the changes that photographic images have had on the way we look at the world “ Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood” (Sontag 1979). On photographing war, she argued that photography is an act of non-intervention and that when photographing war and a photographer will unfortunately choose an image over a person’s life. She purports that “Images transfix. Image anesthetize…But after repeated exposure to images it also becomes less real” (Sontag, 1979), her position being that “Initially photography makes things more real, but constant exposure ends up making them less real” (La Grange, 2005). She did eventually reverse her thinking in her essay “Regarding the pain of others” (2004), where she discusses the way that many war photographs have been staged for journalists, and reflected having experienced war in Sarajevo that “photographers are being held to a higher standard of probity” (Sontag, 2004). It seems that she “particularly dislikes a kind of fancy rhetoric that downplays the reality of war and pretends that everything has turned into a spectacle” (Fenton, 2016).

David Campbell, another writer on photojournalism, writes on “The Myth of Compassion Fatigue” (2012), and addresses what he sees as the three groups of evidence for compassion fatigue: the accelerating abundance of imagery, the increasingly graphic nature of such images, and the deadened conscience of the audience. He dispels the myth, citing continuing generous charitable donations and that “rendering our capacities solely in terms of compassion – either its excess or lack – is too singular and limited a view” (Campbell, 2012). He asserts that the myth of compassion fatigue “is entirely the wrong concept for thinking about how images produced by photojournalism work … and for too long it has prevented that thinking from progressing” (Campbell, 2012).

Considering atrocities in Nazi Germany, Argentina, Cambodia amongst others Ritchin writing in Time magazine suggests that if they had been exposed earlier they may have been mitigated and that “Many documentary photographers today continue to take enormous physical and psychological risks for just this reason: to expose contemporary abuses so that, the expectation endures, something may be done to rectify them.”(Ritchen 2014). However ultimately he concludes that some images may now be suspect and the social contract which should lead to moral outrage therefore becomes frayed.

One of the reasons that photography developed around the world was the desire to record wars. It must be argued that revealing images of war in Vietnam “was a major factor in the public’s eventual repugnance for that war” (Wells 2015). Obviously it is vital that images are realistic and balanced as with all reporting, but where this is so I believe that they give the opportunity at least to raise awareness of events.

War reporting has now changed and as the military try to control reports and images, often reports and images are given from a distance or taken after events. They may “have no images of direct conflict, but show traces of the war” (Wells 2015). It seems that it is video footage that now gives us news as it happens, whilst war photography is most often aftermath photography (apart from citizen photos), “the static photograph taken after an event, rather than the frozen image made of an event, is the radically open image par excellence” (Campany 2003). This presents dilemmas as it removes the reader from the event as the photograph emphasises the pastness of the event. As Campany points out “The danger is that it can also foster an indifference and political withdrawal that masquerades as concern” (2003).

I suggest that there is a place for War photography in the moment as well as aftermath images, however in both cases the onus is on both photographers and editors to record and display them accurately and not to stage, bend or represent them in a way other than they happened or impacted.

Inside/out – Abigail Solomon-Godeau

In her 1994 essay ‘Inside/out’, Solomon-Godeau argues against a binary insider/outsider approach to documentary photography: A way forward would be to avoid both these positions and produce work which provides a distanced look at the subject as well as offering some sort of ‘truth’, which may not be the truth.

Do you need to be an insider in order to produce a successful documentary project?

 The essay philosophises about “truth status” of photography; Solomon-Godeau refers to the inside/out positions of photographers in relation to their subjects. Sontag believed that Diane Arbus’s photography, what Solomon–Godeau would call an outsider, objectifies people. Whereas “Rosler calls outsider photography “victim photography” (La Grange 2005); both Sontag and Rosler believe that documentary photography takes something from the subject and present only a partial view of them.

Solomon-Godeau says that it is more complex than this. She states “that what is actually the issue is how we know reality” (La Grange 2005), and whether it can be represented. In any case if photography can only show a superficial view then she asks can you tell whether it’s an inside or outside view?  Solomon Godeau proposes that insiders may still not be able to represent the truth whilst outsider photographers may be able to reveal the truth and quotes Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958) as an example of the later.

There are of course advantages of both being an insider or an outsider. As an insider you can be more intimate, empathetic or sympathetic with a subject but as an outsider you have the opportunity to be more objective.

 References:

Baker, S, Mavilian, S and Harbin, N (2016) The radical eye: modernist photography from the collection of Sir Elton John. London. Tate publishing

Campbell, D. (2012) The myth of compassion Fa2gue. Available at: http://www.david-campbell.org/wp-content/documents/DC_Myth_of_Compassion_Fatigue_Feb_2012.pdf (Accessed: 18 October 2016).

David Campany (2003) Available at: http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/ (Accessed: 19 October 2016).

Fenton, J. (2016) Snap judgments. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2003/jul/05/photography.artsfeatures (Accessed: 18 October 2016).

la Grange, A. (2005) Basic critical theory for photographers. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal Press.

Ritchin, F. (2014) Syrian torture archive: When photographs of atrocities don’t shock. Available at: http://time.com/3426427/syrian-torture-archive-when-photographs-of-atrocities-dont-shock/ (Accessed: 18 October 2016).

Rosler, M (1981) Around and Afterthoughts. Available from:  http://everydayarchive.org/awt/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/rosler-martha_in-around-afterthoughts.pdf (Accessed 18.10.16)

Sontag, S (1979) On Photography. London: Penguin.

Sontag, S. (2004) Regarding the pain of others. London: Penguin Books.

Wells, L. (ed.) (2015) Photography: A critical introduction. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Part One The photograph as document

Project one: Eyewitness

Exercise

  • Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power.
  • How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?
  • Write a list of the arguments for and against. For example, you might argue that these pictures do have a degree of objectivity because the photographer (presumably) didn’t have time to ‘pose’ the subjects, or perhaps even to think about which viewpoint to adopt. On the other hand, the images we see in newspapers may be selected from a series of images and how can we know the factors that determined the choice of final image?
  • Think about objectivity in documentary photography and make some notes in your learning log before reading further.

Response:

I found it difficult to find examples where I could be certain that it was citizen journalism and even more where these related to abuses of power. However in the process I discovered this story and have reflected on how the picture affects the story: Voices of the damned: These horrifying stories from concentration camp victims reveal, with chilling clarity, why this week North Korea was likened to Nazi Germany (Walters 2016). The report centres on the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea suggesting that the inmates are being gradually eliminated by deliberate methods.

mail-korea  Anon

mail-korea-2 Anon

The first picture makes it easy to visualise conditions in the camp and the second presents an army guard looking threatening and harsh. They support and enhance the narrative in the news story and must have been chosen for that. Certainly neither could be classed as objective. The picture of the camp would need authenticating, as it could be staged or from a different location. The picture of the guard carries the same issues but even if authentic, it is essentially only a snap shot of a face caught on camera and her demeanor could be explained by her surprise at being photographed.

New stories can obviously benefit from citizen journalism and photographic testimony from ordinary citizen but authenification is vital, as is responsible balanced use. Apparently the BBC can receive up to 10,000 pieces of user-generated content on a single day. Perhaps the way forward is to responsibly mix professional and citizens photos to give a rounded picture.

A Newstatesman article (Baker 2015) raises some interesting points. It outlines how verification is now relatively simple but that events can actually be staged with media coverage in mind. The Sydney siege and the Lee Rigby Murder in Woolwich are given as examples where in these cases citizen video footage was not shoot by chance but taken to control the stories.

I found it easier to access citizen video news footage, which raises similar issues as citizen photography. One such example is the “Syria hero boy” story (The Telegraph  2014) which was  a hoax story of a boy saving a girl from gunfire. It originally appeared as an original news piece, with unverified content and was later debunked (Crilly , 2014)

mail-syria-boy-hero Anon

For and against of citizen journalism:

For:

  • Enhances news stories
  • Widens the possibility for capturing an event
  • Many photos of the same event provide possible authentication and multiple viewpoints

 Against:

  • Only as balanced as the editing allows
  • Must be verified absolutely
  • Even if authentic the event could have been staged to capture the photographic evidence.
  • The image could be tampered with post production
  • Can never be objective as influenced by the context and photographer, however also true of journalistic photographs.

References:

Baker, V (2015) How far can you trust citizen journalism on the internet? The Newstatesman. 25.3.15.Available from: http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2015/03/how-far-can-you-trust-citizen-journalism-internet. (Accessed 3.10.15)

Crilly, R (2014) Syria ‘hero boy’ video is too good to be true. The Telegraph 14.11.14Crilley 2014). Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11232803/Syria-hero-boy-video-is-too-good-to-be-true.html (Accessed 5.10.16)

Malm, S (2014)Heroic young boy runs through sniper fire in Syria, pretends to get shot, then rescues terrrified girl as bullets hit the floor around them. The Daily Mail online, 11.11.14. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2829895/Heroic-young-boy-runs-sniper-fire-Syria-pretends-shot-rescuing-terrified-girl-bullets-hit-floor-them.html#ixzz4MCGmQHDZ (Accessed 5.10.16)

Walters, G (2016). Voices of the damned: These horrifying stories from concentration camp victims reveal, with chilling clarity, why this week North Korea was likened to Nazi Germany. The Mail online, 2.10.16. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565240/Voices-damned-These-horrifying-stories-concentration-camp-victims-reveal-chilling-clarity-week-North-Korea-likened-Nazi-Germany.html#ixzz4Lx25rEY9 (Accessed 3.10.15)

The Telegraph (2014) Watch: Syrian ‘hero boy’ appears to brave sniper fire to rescue terrified girl in dramatic video. The Telelgraph.  Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11222420/Watch-Syrian-hero-boy-appears-to-brave-sniper-fire-to-rescue-terrified-girl-in-dramatic-video.html (Accessed 5.10.16)