Exercise 1: Listen to Miranda Gavin talking about documentary photography at
In your learning log, write a 200 word reflective commentary setting out your reflections to Gavin’s viewpoint.
Miranda Gavin is talking about what is documentary photography. In her practice documentary photography clashes with art photography. We need to specified these categories making then clear. As new technologies appeared and understanding about documentary changed, also more women coming into photography had added a value. Also many photographers tries to discover something new in the photography, show us something that is not in the frame, old and boring.
Documentary photography in our book called reportage, photojournalism, visual ethnography, street and travel photography. All these categories could go fall into commission or art photography category.
Even so experienced editor could not categorized images, as sometimes they merging into two or more categories.
I do not understand why people aiming to put everything into the frames, to call themselves documentary photography. In my research many photographers starts with one category then moves to another as it may be quite boring to work on one photography category all your life.
All in all Miranda Gavin explains that only photographer knows how he call his relationship to the photograph, as the main point is what photographer want to achieve and show to the public.
Exercise 2: Read the first free sections (pp. 1-8) of the essay ‘Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism’ by Kendall L Walton
Core recourses: Walton_TransparentPictures.pdf
Write a 200 –word reflective commentary in your learning log outlining your views about Walton’s idea of photographic transparency.
Realism in art essentially refers to composition constructed as plainly and without interpretation as possible. The movement is generally noted to have originated from France around the 1850s. Artists sought to resist the more romantic notions represented in art and also to depict the realities of the Industrial Revolution that began during this time period. The Realism art movement continues to present day and offers depictions of highly detailed and carefully planned artwork.
Renaissance – The Renaissance popularity of Humanism and classical readings, combined with the availability of literature such as Dante’s Divine Comedy, led to an interest in mythology, pagan and secular themes. Humanism emphasized the importance of education and knowledge, as well as the potential of the individual and civic responsibility. So in the Renaissance, we might see a civic mural like Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Peaceful City, a secular mural like Raphael’s School of Athens with its themes of philosophy and science, or Boticelli’s lyrical, mythological Birth of Venus.
Kendall L Walton gives us his view about photography and painting differences and which one is more realistic. He starts with similar idea of Edward Steichen ‘Every photograph is fake from start to finish’. However when he needs to talk about realism, photography seems to be more realistic, as images are taken of real subject, when painting can be done using painter’s illusion.
All after all I have to agree with some points in his essay, however some of them doesn’t state real situation. I do agree that photography is more realistic, however we have so many talented painter who can duplicate real situation or person exactly as original…
Using software programs realistic image can be manipulated to suit situation.
Same could be said about paintings, painter can reveal his views on something using a brush.
In my opinion realism and documentary photography has got strong link, this exercise has been given to us to understand importance of reveling true situation or people through our imagery.
Realism made huge difference in art history, however photography is too young kind of art to be affected by this. Photography started in 1950, so paintings has much stronger history and changed with every new period.
Exercise 3: Read the post ‘What makes a document?’ on WeAreOCA, including all the replies to it, and write your own comment both on the blog page and in your own blog. Make sure that you visit all the links on the blog post.
Make sure you reply is personal and authoritative. Express your opinion on the topic of the blog and substantiate your comments with solid arguments, ideally referring to other contributions to the blog.
My opinion document is the fact of something happened, we see an old picture of two men, but this image doesn’t let us know how things happened, what was before and after, how this changed situation. How we can call this a document if we cannot get enough information by looking at it? This picture with no author’s comments doesn’t make document! Even then an author tells us a story, how we can be sure is true fact? There is no evidence…If it would be series of images caught people in action; we could tell this is a fact. For example someone caught steeling, this could be used as evidence in court.
This image doesn’t gives us any facts, story does…
Exercise 4: 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 Eifel 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.
Summarize your findings and make them public in the same forums that you used for your research. Make sure that you also add this to your learning log.
Link to my post:
I found that comments was various, some of them did not even understand what I asked for! However all the images had a special sense to me, as they were from my own personal gallery. People who commented did not have this connection with people in the image, so that’s why they could not understand those in the same way as me. The best commentary was by my previous tutor – Clive White, as he worked with me for a year, so he has better understanding where I am coming from and what I want to achieve. This is a perfect example why photography critics gives us totally different written work, as each of them has his own opinion and views and they way they interpreter images.
Exercise 5: read the article ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts ( on Documentary Photography)’ by Martha Rosler in Bolton R. (ed.) (1992) The Contest of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (p.303). Make notes in your leaning blog.
Postmodernism is the name given to the defining artistic movement of the second half of the 20th century. Aspects of postmodernism in art and literature include surrealism, abstract expressionism, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Postmodern photography is characterized by atypical compositions of subjects that are unconventional or sometimes completely absent, making sympathy with the subject difficult or impossible. Like other postmodern artists, the champions of postmodern photography contend that it is possible to ignore the “rules” and still create art.
Art critics and theorists gave the name “modernism” to the art, literature, and music created during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modernism was characterized by a rejection of previous artistic trends, such as Romanticism and a tendency toward realism. Postmodernism took this further by questioning standard definitions of “art” itself. Modernism and postmodernism were both controversial within the art world, and even the meanings of the terms themselves are the subject of debate. The general public, meanwhile, was often mystified by these works; many viewers questioned whether they were even “art” at all, which some postmodernists saw as a validation of their approach.
Postmodern painting was often characterized by an abstract, or non-representational, approach; works often appeared to be random colors or scribbles without an overriding design or meaning. Postmodern photography takes the same approach, but the medium offers special challenges for the postmodernist. The camera captures a perfect representation of whatever is in front of the lens. This means the images must be carefully chosen in order to remain abstract. Too much artifice, however, is contrary to the postmodern concept.
The word “banal” is often used in relation to postmodern photography. Banal means “ordinary” or even “boring.” As traditional photography focuses on subjects that are interesting, unusual, or beautiful, the choice of banal subject matter is an obvious one for postmodern photography. Again, the idea is to challenge the viewer, whether that viewer is an art critic, academic, or casual passerby. The artist asks a question or, rather, forces the viewer to ask, if the subject is ordinary or boring, whether the image is still a work of art.
The photographer William Eggleston has been called a consummate postmodernist. Eggleston worked with color images at a time when only black and white photography was considered “art” by critics and museum curators. While some questioned his choice of a format that was seen as common or pedestrian, its eventual acceptance made color photography a valid form for other artists to use. This illustrates how postmodern art, while sometimes controversial or confusing, has benefited the practice of art as a whole.
The article can be found here:
This article introduce us with:
- History and meaning of Documentary Photography.
- Contest of Documentary Photography changed, photos of poverty and degradation are more popular as postmodernism came into scene.
- Liberal documentary still exist (magazines, books, newspapers, then more expensive moves to art galleries an museums).
- Diane Arbus – freak show photography.
- Photography from the past with the most famous photographers (war, slum, cult, foreign, poor photography).
- W. Eugene Smith keeps chasing the truth for us in words and pictures.
- Edward S. Curtis and his imagery (ethnographic costumes or travel, Indians photos) has been retouched and sold for good money.
- Can we trust photos as the documents?
- War times and no choice of photographic freedom. Photographers taken a chance to record some actions by armed solders even that this could cost their lives.
- Dorothea Lange in 1936 taken the most reproductive photograph. However subject of this photograph complained that he gets no penny of it.
- Documentary photography has two sides: Instrumental – evidence of something and conventional –historical purposes.
- Story with Thompson (picture of Dorothea Lange taken on 1936) showed us that photographers can harm incense person life by revealing who they are. This is when false names was given: Gudger, Woods and Ricketts.
- Documentary photographers years ago reveled what was happening around and persuade viewer to take action, however nowadays photographers show us real life, with no action needed to change these things.
- Difference between sixties and eighties photography and subject matters.
- Nowadays documentary images haven’t got any new styles or no new messages compare them with 1930s.
- Author calls this era documentary photography boring, look at Bowery photography (images of flat drunk people).
- Photographic critiques issues.
- Advertising photography is not criticized, which makes this different form other genres. However it still has it’s own viewer.
- At the end the author reveals her feminist views and thoughts.
I found this article interesting, but reading whole book with full contest would make some points more relevant and more understandable. Rosler covers many things, so the best idea was to write out some points what her article consists of. I like author’s comparization between documentary photography war times, and nowadays. However I do not understand why she is suppressed that photography changed, many things changed since then, documentary photography had to adapt. Rosler criticizes these days photographers, as she does not understand this, one of her least favorite photographic work – The Bowery is mentioned few times, she states that they are victims. These people photographed when they was drunk and not in the best state. Why we have to show this to the viewer? Documentary photography covers many areas, so this one is included. Then the author moves on to criticism, how and why criticism exists; also she mentions that advertising photography is not being critized. Does it have the right being called an art? Many different aspects Martha Rosler covers in her article can’t wait to rad a full book.
Exercise 6: Write a 25-word reflective commentary on the above quotes by Andre Bazin and Allan Sekula. Briefly compare their respective positions and record your own view on the issue of photographic objectivity. Full texts available from OCA/student Core resources: Bazin_ontologyphoto.pdf and Core resources: Sekula_PhotoMeaning.pdf
“For the first time, between the originating object and its reproduction there intervenes only the instrumentality of a non-living agent. For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man…in spite of any objections our critical spirit may offer, we are forced to accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually, re-presented… ”
(André Bazin, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’ in What is Cinema? 1945, p.7)
“If we accept the fundamental premise that information is the outcome of a culturally determined relationship, then we can no longer ascribe an intrinsic or universal meaning to the photographic image.”
(Allan Sekula, ‘On the Invention of Photographic Meaning’, 1997, p.454)
The main issue about these two states above is photographic objectivity. Andre Bazin has very contrasted views to Allan Sekula. Bazin thinks that the camera intervenes between photographer and the scene taking all the credits, at the same time showing no creative invention or any objections. However Sekula gives his views on this saying that photographic objectivity may be compromised does not matter how long and hard photographer worked on it.
My opinion on this topic is that the camera does not take pictures; photographer is the one who drives his artistic skills through the camera settings. This should be said again, as in the previous exercise, everything depends on a photographer how he understands situation and what he wants to achieve by representing it to the audience. Also whom he works for as many magazines and newspaper photographers had to present news in only one way.
Some best-known photos had been set up to create propaganda, images like Capa’s millitiaman, Joe Rosenthal’s depiction of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and Leni Riefenstahl’s photography. This caused by change of documentary understanding and photography. As the first explanation of documentary photography was to represent information of historical events in the way they really happened.
Photography changed drastically over the times, so the photographic objectivity has not play the important role in nowadays life. If we look at advertising photography or photographs on magazine cover they do not meet reality at all.
Exercise 7: Read Simon Bainbridge;s article on the 2011 Hereford Photography Festival. Core resourses: Hereford_Bainbridge.pdf
Select one of the bodies of work in the article and write a 200-word reflective commentary in your learning log.
Next listen to Jon Levy, founder of Foto8, talking about documentary in the art gallery at http://oca-student.com/node/100127
Note down your reactions to Levy’s comments in your learning log.
I have decided to look at George Georgiou work for this exercise. Georgiou (1961) is British photographer, gained his photography degree at Polytechnic College London. His images for Hereford Photography Festival have been taken in Eastern Europe; his main idea was to reveal Russia influence on its soviet neighboroughs. As you known I am Lithuanian, Lithuania is based in Eastern Europe and has border with Russia. Years ago Lithuania was part of Russian, but we got our independency on 1991. So this imagery is very close to me in many ways, Lithuania still suffers from Russian occupation.
When I look at Georgiou images I see the country where I am from: old 5 floors buildings (renovation plan is already in place), people dressed in the same way (very short squirts), soviet paintings, really old cars (new cars still costs a fortune in Eastern Europe), very old clocks hanging on the wall, people living in horrible conditions and old shops. Some of these things are not so bad in Lithuania; I have to admit that Ukraine and Georgia is affected by Russia more than other countries.
All in all George Georgiou gives us an opportunity to see different angle and thematic documentary photography, we go away from aesthetic images.
Jon Levy’s talk:
Jon Levy talks about documentary photography more about photojournalism and photographers intentions. He has much experience in this area, as he is founder of photo journal based on story telling. Once again he admitted that is very hard to classified photographers as the most important thing is that photographer want to show us, what ways we wants to do this. I like his talk that he know only one photographer who clearly know his intention and what he wants to achieve, all other photographers quite not sure what is their pathway. The final sentence that we need to know photographer personally to understand his views through his imagery is very true, sometimes I feel like my tutors don’t understand where I am coming from and it our connection very weak, so I am not able to progress as much as I would like.
Read the section entitled: ‘The Photographic Brief’ in Short, M. (2011) Creative Photography context and narrative. Lausanne: AVA Publishing, pp. 20-26
After reading Maria Short section about photographic brief it made me change my photographic theme. The best way to reveal your ideas, feelings and thoughts by knowing your photographic subject, so the best idea for me is to take photographs of my husband at work and at home, as we are new parents to 2 months old baby I will take this into consideration and will call my project ‘New life, things changed…’ Who will know better than me how he feels, what he thinks and who he truly is?
Short’s book section provides us with clear examples of documentary photography briefs, the most wonderful thing is that every photographer has his own way to reveal things or subjects, as everyone has his own feelings, views and issues he wants to speak of in photographic way. There are many tips how to handle photographic brief.