Part One: The photograph as document


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.