Research Point

Research Point


Do your own research into the work of the socially committed B&W photographers discussed so far, both British (Exit Group, Chris Killip, Nick Danziger, Bill Brandt) and American (Jabob Riis, Lewis Hine). Was this social documentary work their prime focus? How does it fit with other work done by these photographers?


Make notes in your learning log.


Exit Group – (Nicholas Battye/Chris Steele-Perkins/Paul Trevor)


Survival Programmes comprises photographs (all black and white), interview transcripts, drafts and other materials relating to the book Survival Programmes by the Exit Photography Group (Nicholas Battye/Chris Steele-Perkins/Paul Trevor). The photographs and interviews were made between 1974 and 1979, and record life in Britain’s inner urban areas in the 1970s.




Nicolas Battye had degrees in Religious and Psychoanalytic studies. After working as a documentary photography he worked as psychotherapist in private practice, also he art and designed lecturer, later religious studies lecturer and from 1990 psychoanalyst lecturer. As we see Nicholas Battye had other prime focus work, also documentary is only one are where photographer did not have a degree. We clearly can see religious themes in his photographic work.




Chris Steele-Perkins has a psychologist degree, but has never worked as psychologist. He spent all his time taking images, has been awarded for his photojournalist work. I found this fascinating when people spend 4 years getting a degree and then turn they life into something they do not know about and finally become very successful. I can not see any link between his psychologist studies and photographic work.




Paul Trevor attended National Film and Television School. There is no information on the Internet about other kind of work, so I assumed he dedicated all his time to documentary photography.




Chris Killip left school at age sixteen and started to work as a trainee hotel manager at Isle of Men. Then he decide that photography is what he wanted, so be became beach photographer. After many years and brilliant photographs Killip received Cartier Bresson award and been invited to work as professor at Harvard University. This is another example of teenager who left a school and after many years become a professor in on of the best universities in the World.




Nick Danziger devotes his life to photojournalism; he even produced some documentary films. Photographer started travel form very early age, he took of his first trip at age 13. Without a passport and a ticket, he was selling sketches to earn some money. Danziger gained MA in Fine Art.





Bill Brandt – born in Hamburg, Germany. He had quite a big family, three brothers. He suffered from tuberculosis at age of sixteen to age of twenty-two. Jewish educator in Vienna helped him to follow his passion – photography. He found him a job at portrait studio. Brandt been introduced to a great surrealism photographer and poet Man Ray. Photographer worked for him and learned many new things. Then he start working on his book ‘English at Home’ which wasn’t successful and been remaindered. In 1940 Brandt been asked to photograph Blitz (heavy and frequent bombing raids carried out over Britain in 1940 and 1941). Later on photographed worked on endangered buildings, Nighwalk project, portrait work, and essays on photography. Then suddenly he found new passion – landscape. In 1961 his photographs of nudes was published.


As we see Brandt worked on many different genres and styles of photography, which worked perfectly for him as he received Royal Designer for Industry and Silver Progress Medal awards.





Jabob Riis – born in1849 in Denmark, he was third of fifteen children. He worked as a carpenter before he emigrated in United States (1870). He was unable to find a job, so spend most of the days at police station as he was squatting. Photographer done many menial jobs before he start working for ‘New Your Evening Sun’ as photojournalist. In 1889 his project ‘How the other half lives’ published.


Harold Evans, the author of The American Century: People, Power and Politics (1998) has pointed out: “Jacob Riis estimated that Dickensian London had 175,816 people living on every square mile of its worst slums but New York’s Lower East Side by the nineties in contrast, had about 290,000 per square mile, making it perhaps the worst slum in the history of the Western world…. He records a tenement block with 1,324 Italian immigrants living in a total of 132 rooms. In one 12-by-12-foot room he found five families, 20 people, with two beds between them. One third of the entire city population – about 1.2 million – lived in 43,000 tenement houses like these, without running water or indoor flush toilets… Some 40 percent of them had tuberculosis. One third of all their babies died before their first birthday.”


Riis continued writing and lecturing on poor theme. He wrote some books such as ‘Children of the Poor’, Out of Mulberry Street’, ‘The Making of An American’, ‘The Battle With The Slum’, ‘Children of The Tenement’. All this information reveals that Riis stayed with documentary photography throughout his life.





Lewis Hine – born 1874 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He studied sociology at Chicago and New York. We worked at Ethical Culture School and employed his photography in his teaching; this is how documentary photography was established. Hine was interested in Ellis Island immigrants, safety laws forworkers and child labour. Both his books ‘Child Labour in the Carolinas’ and ‘Day Laborers Before Their Time’ based on travelling the country and taking photographs of children working in factories. After his successful campaign against child labour, he started working after First World War situation in France and Belgium. After that he went to Balkans to photograph his new project ‘The Children’s Burden in the Balkans’. Nest his project was safety laws for workers on Empire State Building construction.


I would say Hine was very talented and successful, however it was a big surprise that such a famous photographer could not earn enough from his work and died in poverty. He dedicated all his life to documentary photography and photojournalism, however he struggled to get something back for it.



Do your own research into semiotics and how it can be applied of photographic images. Start by reading Chapters 4 (Narrative) and 5 (Signs and Symbols) in Short. M. (2011)

Creative Photography: Context and Narrative. Lausanne AVA Publishing.


Maria Short gives us many aspects to focus on during and prior shooting, however today we will look at Narrative & Signs and Symbols.


Narrative techniques are used to depict or create these frames of reference and context. Narrative technique can be used single and multiple images.


Single images –narrative consists of beginning, middle and the end. However sometimes this structure is broken and we are left with past or suggest future.

As Chris Killip writes in the preface to his photographs published in In Flagrante (1988): ‘The photographs can tell you more about me than about what they describe. The book is a fiction about a metaphor.’

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We can see that all these images have an idea behind the scene. There are the reasons to these situations and we clearly can see those. Narrative makes photograph to reveal real purpose of shooting.


The best example of liner storytelling is Susan Derges project ‘Full Circle’. She shows tadpoles hatching from frogspawn and developing into frogs. This can be used as a metaphor for how far you situation gone to. The thing is if you have no clue about frogs’ physical development and never heard about Susan Derges, it’s no chance for understanding the idea or image.


Signs and Symbols is another very interesting chapter in Short’s book.

The study of signs is called semiotics and can be applied to many fields of endeavor, including linguistics, the sciences and visual arts.


The best example is Emma Blaney’s project based on small, everyday objects. ‘The desire is to remember and to be remembered. This project focuses on small, everyday objects that often go unnoticed. But it is objects like these which are often, for individuals, triggers for deeply embedded memories of people/moments from their past.’


Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts

A Life’s Work in Photography


Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.’


In my opinion Mckvb Cullin is very right about photography and there is a reason to use signs and symbols to create that felling what every viewer can fell.

Philosopher Pierce, is particular pertinent to photography simply because a photograph is literal ‘trace’ of it’s original subject. Also I would like to say that photograph has more power to reveal information about subject than subject itself. There are so many photographic techniques can be used to prove complex objectives.


I was stunted by Maria Short’s photography project included her stepfather who has been diagnosed with kidney failure and his market grower harvest. Extremely we can see many links between decay harvest and dialysis. I like the idea she used her family private health issues to create documentary piece.


The perfect example of use signs and symbols is Robert Frank’s ‘Americans’, each part of his book starts with photograph of flag. Also he uses other symbols and signs to feature different aspect of American culture.


Next very feminine Short’s project was to use horse as a symbol to reveal young women identity and social placing in the world. This is the clear example how two opposite things can work together towards final results.


The symbol was really hard for me to understand was Risaku Suzuki’s Sakura –Cherry Blossom photograph, which symbolizes hope and strength, falling petals symbolize the fragility of beauty. These symbols are not so clear as original ones: blue – cold, red – hot, smoke – fire or heat.


Photographer Jane Stroggles proves that lighting conditions can change composition completely. Her images taken in 5th Avenue, New York at day and night looks like two different places, also the American flag is seen in a day picture. Night images hide all the details but give another aspects to play with.


Use of practical techniques is magnificent tool for photographic signs and symbols. Aperture, shutter speed and lighting conditions or use of ISO everything you need. Perfect example is Robert Kenedy’s Funeral Train 1968.


Examples of semiotics in photography:

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I have researched some examples of semiotics in photography. There are perfect examples how simple things can have so deep meanings. My favorite one is image of the road, one is a big slow down sign and another side two cars where one is marked red colour same as cone. This image is powerful as there are many signs that work perfectly together. Also there is meaning of traffic behind the science, also there may be meaning of well-regulated roads.



Explore the website Humphrey Spender’s Worktown


Briefly reflect in your learning log on Humphrey Spender’s documentary style and the themes of Worktown, with particular emphasis on the ethics and purpose of the project.


The article ’90 and Counting’, published in BJP magazine five years before Spender’s death, will give you some background information on the photographer and the project.


Core resources: BJP_Spender.pdf


After exploring Spender’s website I have to say his project was based more on anthropology than taking portraits, we can call his style scientific with objective views. The aim was to record life style in working class in England.


His work was never intent to be an art, as other documentary photographers work we analyzed. He had no interest in economical or political or social issues around England. We also had chosen only one social class – working people.

Spender had very easy task to make a record, as editor he worked for did not want images like other newspapers have. We research many documentary styles, all of them are called documentary, but has different approach and goal. Documentary will be good if we will know what to achieve by employing certain styles and techniques. Wider understandings of documentary photography make huge difference in quality of photographs.


Do your own research into FSA project and the work of the photographers listed here and others.

Many of the images taken by FSA photographers reached the public via magazines and newspapers such as Life and New York Times, although it was in the shape of the documentary photography book that most images acquired their near-cult status. The photographs in books such as You Have Seen Their Faces, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, Land of the Free and An American Exodus stimulated the readers’ emotions, through the emotion was guided by the text (Scott, 1986, p.215). However, these books arguably showed a tendency to reduce their subjects to pure symbols of hardship and deprivation.

So, an ethical question arises: were the FSA photographers exploiting their subjects?


FSA was government agency and had a publicity department to explain what problems are and solve them. The aim was to create land and resources for farm workers and government experts who helped them implement modern farming methods on arable land. President’s agricultural policy had been to decrease production and increase prices of farm products. This program was criticized for manipulation for political reasons. Farm Security Administration helped farmers to buy farms with help from the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act. The most famous photographs are:

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During 1935-1942 photographers as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott, Russell Lee, Jack Delano, John Collier, Jr., Carl Mydans and Gordon Parks traveled around the world documenting farm communities. In total there is 175,000 black-and-white negatives, some colour photographs has been made too. This project can be called anthropology, as documenting involved studies about people lives, how they changed, and so many people could not survive without it.

I found this website extremely helpul to understand project, as there are interviews with some farmers from FSA:


The question is: were the FSA photographers exploiting their subjects?


My answer would be yes. This photographic project had a significant importance on photographer’s carriers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, also for the emergence of documentary photography.







Read the article ‘Cannon Folder: Eugene Atget’ by Abigail Solomon-Godeau (in Photography at the Dock, 2009, pp. 28-51). This article is provided as an Appendix at the back of this course. NOTE: If you are viewing this course digitally, and you do not have a copy of this recommended book, please email to ask for a copy to be sent in the post.

(Copyright restrictions allow single photocopies only)


Research the work of the surrealist photographers mentioned above. In your learning log write a bullet list of key visual and conceptual characteristics that you think their work has in common.


From a perspective of documentary photography, surrealism should not be regarded as a genre with solid boundaries. For surrealism to be of any practical benefit in documentary it needs to be seen as a distinctive visual and conceptual strategy which can e deployed in a variety of circumstances and contexts.


In documentary, surreal B&W images are not only the domain of street photography but also belong to classic reportage tradition. In this short but prolific career as a photographer, Tony Ray-Jones often opted for a surrealist approach in his explorations of British idiosyncrasies, e.g. Glynderbourne, 1967. Hardcore themes such as those tackled by photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin sometimes benefit from a surreal photographic style that enhances connotations of irrationality and inhumanity. Pellegrin’s photographs of Bosnian children have a dreamy, spooky quality.


This essay looks into Eugene Atget’s photography also what influence it had on Berenice Abbott. Atget was an inventor of surrealism, so his work was an example for other surrealism photographers; they followed his path to modernism. Below I research Eugene Atget’s and Berenice Abbott works and find some points that are in common for both photographers.


Berenice Abbott:


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Eugene Atget:


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  • New portrait format, something between formal portrait and photojournalism.


  • Images did not reveal information they raise questions.


  • Popular juxtaposition


  • Contrast in light


  • Popular reflections


  • Geometric lines used to take viewer through all image, not focus on one certain point.


  • Blured images


For me surrealism is the lien where documentary photography meets art. Atget done an amazing job by presenting this genre to audience and other photographers. All the exercises before were based on documenting, but no word about art. I am glad I discovered this genre, as this is definitely something that I would like to work on in the future. Maybe in assignment 2?



Vivian Maier, whose work was only recently discovered, built a vast collection of images of life in Chicago and New York. Her main body of work, taken in the 1950s, shows surrealist elements.


Explore the Vivian Maier website ( and identify five street photographs that show the influence of surrealism. Write a short reflective commentary in your learning log.


Do some independent research into contemporary street photography.


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 Vivian Meyer born in 1926, most of her time she spent working as a nanny in Chicago and New York. Her work was recognized after her death in 2009. She used to take her camera everywhere she went, however she never showed her pictures or even developed photographic rolls. Her pictures have a surrealism signs, those images raises many questions.


Diane Arbus said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” Mayer perfectly reflects this idea in her photography.

Mayer’s talent surprises the world and no one can understand how someone working as a nanny can create such powerful imaginary. This is shame her images was found after her death, she would never know how good her photography really is. There is an article about this:


Contemporary street photographers:


  1. Zack Arias


  1. Tomek Werblański


  1. JR


  1. Jesse Wright


  1. Martin Roemers


  1. Matt Stuart


  1. Brian Sparks


  1. Richard Sandler


  1. Bruce Gilden


  1. Daido Moriyama



Some of those photographers are very talented, however when I was doing my research I found lots of very primitive street photographs, it seems like everyone can be street photographer if you have a camera and time. Seems like street photography is something completely different to other genres, no creativity, no reasons for documenting. This exercise give an idea how difficult is to be successful street photographer, especially someone like Eugene Atget. He not only provided very good photographs, but also found a new photographic genre.



Assignment 1: Read the 1939 article on documentary photography by Elizabeth McCausland.


Core resources: PhotoNotes.pdf


Write a short bullet list of McCausland’s main points in your learning log. Explain in your own words, in single paragraph, why this article is relevant to this part of the course.


1. Social situation of that age forced documentary photography to start.


2. New purpose for documentary photography is to report events.


3. Same question again: is photography an art?


4. Photography is the best way for documenting.


5. Photography represents any situation better than other artwork.


6. Photographer’s job in to reveal true situation, do not let photographs to lie.


7. Photography helps us to understand world better.


This article highlights very interesting points on documentary photography. The most important part of this, that photography represents any situation better than any other artwork (photograph taken by skillful photographer), also can be used as evidence in court. The importance of documentary photography is to highlight social situation and problems, this is where we can learn our mistakes and try, at least try to make world better place to live. This is what this OCA course is about to show our thoughts on certain things through our imagery.


Exercise 2: read the article ‘Survival Programmers’ in Eight magazine (V5N1, June 2006)


Core resources: Foto8#5.1­_SurvivalProgrammes.pdf


The full issue of the magazine is available to download from:


Survival Programmers article has lots of historical information. We can see that Nicolas Battye, Chris Steele-Perkins and Paul Trevor have done really good job, storytelling is strongly revealed this project. Also I would like to comment on this article, those images with co commentary would still have very strong storytelling affect (tell people that social reform needed to escape those situations), but the commentary with no images would lose at least 50 per cent of power. Ages ago we relayed stories in the books with no images or pictures, but nowadays every article in the press has supporting image, mostly to attract reader.


Exercise 3: Read ‘Bill Brandt’s Art of the Document’ by David Campany.


Core resources: Campany_BillBrandt.pdf


Write a short summary in your learning log. How did B&W become such a respected and trusted medium in documentary?


This article is about how photographer’s carrier had an impact on photographs he shot, and also how photographs/photography had an impact on Bill Brandt.


Bill Brandt is one of the most famous photographers and his image ‘Parlourmaid and Under Parlourmaid Ready to Serve Dinner’, which clearly revels contract between social casts.


As soon as photojournalism become fashionable, Brandt lost interest in it, as everyone was shooting this style, maybe it was too difficult to stay original? Then extreme white and black photography era for Brandt started, this wasn’t typical for this kind of photography. He also gone for nude photography, where he could explore lines and curves of human body.


For all Brandt’s career he believed in black and white photography, to be honest if we would be able to convert those famous photographs into black and white do you think it would be same effect? In my opinion those images would loose significant photographer’s voice and meaning in most of the cases. Most of photographers call color as distraction, with black and white image it seems like it is closer, you can feel it. Also photographic theme has a big influence on decision: color or black and white? I do not think that war images can work with color photography, do you?


Cole Thompson (Photographer) has an interesting explanation for this:


‘I am often asked, “Why black and white?” I think it’s because I grew up in a black-and-white world.

Television, movies and the news were all in black and white.

My heroes were in black and white and even the nation was still segregated into black and white.

Perhaps my images are an extension of the world in which I grew up.

For me color records the image, but black and white captures the feelings that lie beneath the surface.  People ask if I’ve ever worked in color, and the answer is no; I only see things in black and white.’




Exercise 4: Read the introduction and first section (p.p. 105-10) of the article ‘Discussing Documentary’ by Maartje van den Heuvel (Documentary Now 2005).


Core resources: Heuvel_DiscussingDocumentary.pdf


Write a short summary in your learning blog.


This article raises a question: can documentary still reveal real subject and details?


‘It was our job to document the problems of the Depression so that we could justify the New Deal legislation that was designed to alleviate them.’

Arthur Rothstein, photographer



Nowadays there are many fiction photographs in press. Author reveals how photography is linked to other art genres, also that photography is now changed. Many years ago when documentary photography started there was no television, magazines and Internet. So documentary photography had to cover media purpose, nowadays information is very easy accessible.

We can contrast documentary photography purpose to reveal social issues at 1890 and nowadays. I guess historical situation changed, however social issues stayed. This is the reason why documentary photography ad art photography most of the times very close to each other and this gives us very hard time when categorize photographs. Even photographers are confused what category they belong.

All in all many documentary photographers still find may social issues to photograph in everyday life. The best examples are Christian Rodriguez and

Michael Hanson. Christian Rodriguez made a project called ‘Teen Mum’ and Michael Hanson photographed young teenagers who will be signing contract with major football team.




Exercise 5: Read the interview with Marcus Bleasdale in Eight magazine (V4N3, Dec 2005).


Core recourses: Foto8#4.3_MarcusBleasdale.pdf


The full issue of the magazine is available to download from:


You can see tear sheets of Bleasdale’s work on the website of the agency VII:


See also the article in the Guardian magazine 16 January 2010.



I read Marcus Bleadale article about hid photojournalist work.


Bleadale was a banker but he gave up his carrier for the photojournalist work. He sold his flat in London and spent all the money on traveling, as this been important park of photojournalism. The issue Bleadale reveals in his photography is the reason of the conflict in Combo and other continents. I found that YouTube short videos covering many issues of Compo society, this is better information source that the single interview listed above. Also they cover more issues and situations.


In those videos Marcus Bleadale talks about the reasons why this project is important. However media wasn’t interested to print his photographs as it was a political issue and someone used this information to make some money.


The link could be found below:


I feel that Bleadale reached his objectives to reveal those issues by publication this across the US newspapers. Thank you Marcus Bleadale for an opportunity to know that those places exists and that we have to do something to help those people to escape gruesome situation!


This information helps us to understand that photojournalist job is important as solders or politicians or any other well qualified job.




Exercise 6: Analyse Martin Shields’ photograph of two young footballers. What are the denotations and connotations of this image? You can write your answer in descriptive prose or make a bullet list if you find this easier.


Compare your findings with those of other students via the OCA student forums.


Denotations: two young boys nearly the same age, in the different footballers clothes, hands across each other, maybe a semiotic terms of friendship? They are definitely going the same way, coming back home? Could they be brothers, hair color illuminates this fact.


Connotations: photographic representation in semiotic terms tells me that this photograph can be used friendship, future or we all after their life will be going same way meanings. There is strong sign of friendship as boys wear different clothes, this may be because there are in different teams, but after a game they are the best mates again.


There is saying, that kinds is our future, which perfectly fits into the frame.


Third idea is that we all will die despite our differences.


Lets see how other students investigated this photograph:



“Two boys going to or coming from a football match walking through a run-down area. (I’d say going to the football because of the cleanliness of their clothes.)”

“Two boys, arms around each other, carrying a football each and walking somewhere.”

“two lads going to football.  I think this is before the match as they are clean and well pressed – unless this is modern image that has been ‘aged’ in which case they might have been on an all-weather pitch.  An area of urban dereliction.”

“Boys walking through a partially completed demolition site on a dry day, each has a football tucked under an arm, each has the other arm around the shoulders of his friend.”

The readings focus on the prime subject of the two boys, the cleanliness of the kit is clearly observed and to a lesser extent the run-down area.



“Current friendship, northern township dereliction of 1960′s, rugby (from shirt on LH boy, hoops not stripes), freedom of travel, age of innocence, destruction of heritage, working class area, long summer days.”

“Opposing teams – might be Rangers and Celtic and maybe Northern Ireland – got that feel to it – boys can still be friends – innocence of youth transcends divisions. This could be the Catholic/Protestant divide?  Can still have friendship and camaraderie across divisions in the eyes of the young – but does this stop as they get older.  Contrast between the clean kit and the derelict surroundings.  Do they belong there or just passing?”

“The image has a late 50’s look to it, but names on football shirts only became compulsory around the late 80’s and found their way onto replica kit.  Also footballs made with pentagonal and hexagonal panels were not available until 1970ish – so is this a composite?  Maybe the dereliction is more recent?  Maybe it’s not dereliction.”

“they support different teams yet care about each other. A rundown council estate – looks abandoned somehow, waiting to be demolished. Thought bombed-out but not sure as it looks 50s/60s. Something about the different tops makes me think of Northern Ireland, factions, warring religions – yet here are two boys wearing different ‘uniforms’ and arm in arm. Hope lies with the young; they are our future; they can re-build etc. There’s something that unsettles me but would take longer to work it out.”

“Friendship, innocence of youth, sentimental, people can be friends even if their football teams are old enemies.  Even in poverty and decay there is human spirit, kindness. Perhaps the adversity of the surroundings strengthens the need for human empathy. There is certainly a strong contrast between their clean clothes and the squalid environment. Perhaps they’re from wealthy families just passing through this area en route to their destination.  Maybe they’re brothers.  Maybe one or both are girls?”

All in all we can see that vast majority of students have the same option, however there are students who looked more deeply into this image and found more semiotic representation signs.



Exercise 7: Download from the OCA student site the tear sheet of the newspaper in which Shields photograph was originally published.


Core resources: FootballBoys.pdf


Read the accompanying text and answer the following:


  • Does the text relate to your initial deconstruction of the image?
  • Does the text change your perception of the image? If so, how?


Yes the initial text regenerated my deconstruction of the image, as I had no idea that in this image the most important part is the housing estate, as this will be reconstructed.


However it did not change my perception of the image as I was right saying that this image reveals future plans. This is good lesson to take time and all possible signs before deconstructing a photograph or before shooting work on the obvious and hidden connotations.


Exercise 8: This exercise revolves around the body of work The Americans, by Robert Frank. You’ll need to do your own web research to find relevant images and background information.


  1. Find five images in The Americans where symbols are used. Explain what they are and how they function in the images.
  2. Read the introduction to The Americans by Jack Kerouac.

Core resources: Kerouac_Americans.pdf Find symbolic references that you can also identify in Robert Frank’s photographs – not necessarily the five images that you chose for the first part of this exercise.



This image is the first in his book; this tells us image is important and telling many things about book. The symbol in the photograph is flag, this introduce us with the main topic and the main sign through all series. Composition show us clear sign of outsider, also the strong relationship between people and flag. We are not able to see faces in this photograph, in my opinion this done deliberately, choosing symbol of those two people as a big part of population.




This image has strong sign of multicultural population. Black women holding white baby also can reflect the space between people, that they are not so close and open to others. As we know that one or other culture moves to certain region, to live close to their background people. However the book title tells us that they are all Americans, don’t matter what colour.


This image has symbol of the car, which means isolation. The lady in the car looks lonely and separated from surroundings. This is significant issue for every American.




This image has strong symbol of disparity of wealth. This lady is wealthy we can judge by her clothes and posh surroundings. In my opinion this disparity is most common in every country, not necessarily America.



This image is the last in Frank’s book. I understand this image as a symbol of believe not necessarily God, it may be believe in America, in Americans, in American flag. This image used as a final one due its context and narrative. In my opinion this image speaks: God is with America!



This young lady’s expression in the image symbolizes loneliness. This is a big hard to understand as she is in the lift with at least two other people. However this must come from deeper. I suggest that Frank wanted to show with this image, that however big America is there are many lonely people around.


Symbolic references:


  1. … ‘holy halo’ of sun hitting a chair in a café…



The empty chairs and television may be symbols of human involvement in the politics; people want to take part in it and to be heard.


  1. … Negro woman pulling on her cigarette with thoughts of her own, as pure a picture as the nicest tenor solo in Jazz…



The passing car indicates passing of time, all those people seem to be not so young, so they seen a lot, especially the facts how America changed.



3. … In Plate 52, Men’s room, railway station…



The strong sense of loneness felt here, empty space in the toilet (I guess) might be sign of hard living and working conditions. There also strong sign of male energy, no women are allowed into this picture/place.


There are many other signs telling us about this book themes and structure for example death theme, gambling, politics and possessions.


Using signs takes photography into higher level; this means that viewer has to spend more time to get what this image is all about. Sighs are codes, every code has explanation that closely generate with photographer’s ideas.



Pictures taken from:



Exercise 9: Read Mraz’s essay in full. Core resources: Mraz_Salgado.pdf

Research the work by Salgado to which Mraz refers and evidence your research in your learning log.


1. Perhaps the best photojournalism fuses information and expression,

document and symbol, in such a way as to create a metaphor: an image

that retains the particularity of its referent but, at the same time, stands

for a broader truth which transcends that immediate context. A revealing

example is offered by Salgado’s reportage on the garimpeiros, the goldminers of Serra Pelado, Brazil, which he began shortly after the

publication of Other Americas, and that constitutes a chapter of

Workers.42In penetrating photos, he captured the insanity unleashed by

the frantic search for instant wealth in inhuman living conditions: faces

full of dementia and delirium, running battles between the half-crazed

miners and the soldiers sent to police them, landscapes where ant-like men

under cumbersome burdens trod on the feet of those in front of them This reportage could well serve as a metonym for the infinite aberrations

of a world with so little hope. It represents a significant advance over Other Americas

, for here estrangement is not mysterious; rather it derives

directly from the manifestly horrible conditions in which these poor devils

live and work. That is not the case with Other Americas, whose images

contain little visual information because they were taken predominantly

in a way so as to eliminate social, political and economic contexts.











Other Americans:






Images were taken form Google search.


I do agree with Mraz’s words above as Salgado project Garimpeiros reveals more social, political and economic aspect. Other Americans are based on photographic expression of sadness, mystery and death, but there is no sign of real situation (movement) such as documentary have to record events around us. For example third image of two boys, there is no evidence of something happening, only symbol of loneliness and sadness. So this is strong point by Mraz, if something has no evidence in recording can it be documentary? Probably we can call this imaginary Travel/People/Black and white photography. Referred to this website



‘You photograph here, you photograph there, you speak with

people, you understand people, people understand you. Then,

probably, you arrive at the same point as Cartier-Bresson, but from

the inside of the parabola. And that is for me the integration of the

photographer with the subject of his photograph…. An image is

your integration with the person that you photographed at the

moment that you work so incredibly together, that your picture is

not more than the relation you have with your subject.’

Salgado thoughts are totally different from Cartier-Bresson thoughts about decisive moment. Photography is much more to Salgado than right moment.


Also lack of decisive moment in photography is filled in with altered imagery.

‘I had no intention of waiting a week,

ten days or the time necessary so that something would happen, so that

I could get the “decisive moment” looked for so often by

photographers…. The specific “decisive moment” wasn’t to be found, it

had to be created’


Pedro Meyer – Pioneer of Digital Imagery


Mraz tries to link these two statements above, but s we seen there is no connection to be found. Salgado did not used digital manipulation, he captured the world he integrated to, felt it. However writer calls his project Other Americans failure for lack of accompanying text and decisive moment.


Next Salgado step was book call Terra.


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Mraz notes that this book seems like divide into two parts, first part images are more like Other Americans continuous with misery and sadness (exactly like the one on the book cover) and the images above are more concentrated on social issues. Writer compares Salgado images to Jacob Riss imagery.


Jacob Riss photographs:

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All in all, this essay based on two things how photographer demonstrates his work and how it can affect the meaning. Mraz compares Salgado work, also he uses Cartier-Bresson and Jacob Riss images to show us how every photographer has his own way to illustrate the meaning of something. The main problem in this essay is lack of visual information and social, political and economical context elimination in some Salgado works.


Exercise 10: Listen to Daniel Meadows talking about his work:


Then read the essay ‘The Photographer as Recorder’ by Guy Lane.

Core resources: Meadows_GuyLane.pdf


This video and an essay take us closer to the photographic project taken in 1973 on double-decked bus, the aim was to photograph ordinary people (British). Daniel Meadows did not want to show something behind the scene, every photograph he taken reveals as much information as subject wanted to express.


The reason why Meadows decided to do this project is his curiosity, he felt that he has to learn and understand people, listen to their stories. Many people were interested in doing this because of free photographs Meadows provided.


The essay revealed many aspects of Meadow work, however there are many critics in this too. There is quite a long gap between 1973 and 2001 while this project continued, many things changed. I guess the way Meadow photograph people change too, as he was criticized for not having enough experience and not employing photographic techniques correctly.


I think this project not only documentary record; there is also record of Meadow’s photographic development and findings. We can see know how far photographer went through for 28 years.




Exercise 11: Read the information that accompanied August Sander’s exhibition People of the 20th Century at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Core resources: ASander_SFMOMA.pdf


Write a 200-word reflective commentary on Sander’s seven-category system. Briefly discuss the implications of his classification system within socio-cultural context of the time. Make connections with contemporary practice as that Zed Nelson, if appropriate.


Sander is very famous for his socio- cultural work, between two World wars. His project is break down into 7 classification units:


  1. The Farmer
  2. The Skilled Tradesman
  3. The Women
  4. The Artists
  5. The City
  6. Classes and Professors
  7. The Last People


The most interesting thing about this classification is that one single person cannot be classified as City and Artist, or Women and Classes and Professors. This is very strong classification system, which reveals contemporary Germany society status, after World War 1 economy was very week as all money was spent on the war. Hitler created strong industry and everyone knew his social class. Life was ok if you had a job in the industry this is why social classes was so important, also there was easier to highlight Jewish people, who had life with no rights or citizenship. His images mostly shoot on location.


Zed Nelson was interested in revealing portraits of coal miners, fisherman and ship builders. He did not gone further to other social communities. All these photographs have names underneath each image, the images reveals more faces and character, images shoot in studio, some of them grouped to reveal more information and compositional approach.


Irving Penn images have similar approach as Sander’s and Nelson’s, however there is unique way to illustrated those people with their work tools, there is no more than two people posing.


All in all Sander had the better way of showing social classification, as he worked on wider group, also most of his photos shoot on location, so this reduce unreal posing sense, people fell more natural in their own environment. I think social approach is a huge part of documentary photography; this is the way to think for the future assignments.



Exercise 12: Read ‘In the American East’ by Richard Bolton (in Bolton, 1992, pp.262-83) and write a 200-word reflective commentary on its relevance to documentary practice.


Then look at work of Charlotte Oestervang in Appalachia (Foto8, V6N1, June 2006, pp.58-9) Core resources: Foto8#6.1_Appalachian.pdf

The full issue of the magazine is available to download from:


In the American East can be found here:


Note: it would be helpful if this link would be suggested by OCA, as I spend lots of time looking for it, also due copyright there are no images displayed.


Richard Avedon work is slightly different from documentary work we look at in the previous exercise, however he used social classification, but in the other way. He classified people looking at geographic location, for example American West – Bolton.


Avedon illuminates subject from their surrounding shooting in the studio, also he uses white background, which gives us more details, clearer view also. There are no details accompanying images, so we have to use our intuition in judging them. This project is clearly affected by social, economical and political issues. Most of those people have to work hard to support themselves and families.


Bolton considers if art with the sign language are illuminated by commercialism and advertising, which manipulates images and lose real photography information.


Avedon project perfectly fits this description, he came from fashion and celebrity work. So white backdrop in the studio with his unique documentary style proves us that documentary photography can be stylish, but in the same way very informative in documentary terms.


All in all portraits without their surrounding lose half of the information and all metaphors, there is not enough information.


If we compare this project to Charlotte Oestervang images, we will see how much photograph with it’s surrounding can tell you, we can see signs and metaphors in the image which white background can not produce. There are no signs of modern living or comfort in in Appalachia. There is an unusual square forms photographs. It seems like this community ask for help.


However these two projects have some similar points: they are portraits, unhappy and unhealthy people.  Where we can call Charlotte Oestervang’s work documentary (it very similar to Riss or Hine), can Avedon work be called the same?




Exercise 13: Read the article ‘Making Sense of Documentary Photography’ by James Curtis.


Core resources: MakingSense.pdf


Curtis contextualizes the work of the FSA photographers within a tradition of early twentieth-century social documentary photography and touches on the issue of the FSA photographers’ methods and intentions. What is your view on this? Is there any sense in which the FSA photographers exploited their subjects?

Visit the FSA online gallery on the Library of Congress website and refer to their FSA catalogue if necessary:


This essay introduces us with historical aspect of documentary photography. FSA photographers works compared with Riss and Hine projects.


Early documentary photography was very mechanical and there was no chance to go away from the studio, there was no such as equipment which can be used outside studio. Many equipment photographers had wasn’t very powerful, so subjects had to remain still for quite a while to get technical correct shot.


We have been introduce to documentary photography in passive recorder scene, however Curtis provides facts how many of the photographs been posed. This makes us think, are those signs and metaphors of poor living, bad conditions really true? Maybe it was useful for government that people thought this way?


FSA project wasn’t about artistic work it was passive recording. However Curtis provides evidence of alteration, in this case passive observer becomes active photographer.


In my opinion FSA photographers exploited their subject by telling not real story, perfect example is Russell Lee photographs of Mexican households, photographer used his techniques and skills to represent totally different story, the story FSA wanted to hear. It raises a question: if FSA project is really documentary, if we can alter any situation in the way we like.


All in all FSA project was government sponsored, so they had an interest to show rest of the world how they are helping poor people, which wasn’t always the case. And photographers done their job, without asking why…


Exercise 14: Read the article ‘What is Street Photography?’ on the London Festival of Photography website:


Now visit:


Choose one of the weekly instructions given to contributors to the Street Photography Now Project in 2011 and build a small portfolio of B&W images on your chosen brief.


Publish a selection of five images from your portfolio on your blog.


There is no such an article on this website, probably it was replaced by So I will continue with another part of exercise.



Every week is giving instructions for photographic projects. I have to choose one and provide small portfolio on chosen subject.


Make a picture that is funny and sad at the same time. A photograph that simultaneously evokes pathos, irony and humor.


Jeff Mermelstein


I have chosen an instruction above, I thing it would be nice to look at something different, also this gives you an experience to fell different kind of photography.




For this exercise I used photos from Flickr as this reflects how hard is to shoot something for chosen brief above. Some images has more sadness than fun, but the perfect balance has the first image taken in a zoo, where many people enjoy looking at dolphins (I guess this is dolphins), but really they are not happy as they want to be free and enjoy their life. This is perfect exercise for understanding shooting on assignment and photographic balanced experience.


Exercise 15: Read Miranda Gavin’s reviews of Anders Petersen’s French Kiss and Jacob Aue Sabol’s Tokyo for Hotshoe Magazine


Core resources: FrenchKiss.pdf

Core recourses: Tokio_Sobol.pdf


Read the article ‘Bye Bye Photography’ (AG magazine #38) and research the work of Daido Moriyama. Core resources: CBadger_Sayonra.pdf


Write a short reflective commentary about the connections between the styles of Moriyama, Petersen and Sabol.


There is no surprise that all these three photographers have been grouped to this exercise.


Let’s see what they have in common? They all shoot in black and white; this could be influenced by 20th century documenting photography. All these artists have same perspective, usage of contrast and tones, same photographic angles, focus, usage of close up images. Looking at the images there is always questions rise, images confuse us, and we are trying to find out what surrealistic approach was applied here.


However they have some differences: Petersen’s images are more about people, their emotions and relationship between them. He photographs nude people this reveals intimacy. Some of the images gives us a little shock, as there in no restrictions what can not be photograph: drunk people, prostitutes, prisoners. It seems like Peterson is not restricted by any ethics and intimacy rules.


Sabol’s work has more surrealistic approach; there is more meaning behind the scene. His compositions have lots of symbols in every tiny detail.




Daido Moriyama focuses on blur photography; also there is the strongest aspect of street photography. William Klein influenced him.



Assignment 2

Assignment asked us to produce 8 images that individually, have narrative and convey specific idea.


I produce 8 images that have narrative and convey loneliness and emptiness idea; I looked for the different ways to reproduce same idea.


This assignment helped me to work on chosen subject with developing my ideas visually, the most important to translate concepts effectively.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills – I have researched quite few documentary photographers and their photographic techniques, this helped me to employ some goods techniques such as juxtaposition, slow shutter speed, high contrast in light and dark points. I tried to follow good composition skills produced by famous documentary photographers.


Quality of outcome – in my opinion a content of assignment 2 is interesting and unique in the way I personalize my own feelings. There is knowledge of technical and demonstration skills applied. Good researched leaded me to look what and how I can create to fulfill assignment criteria and to develop my personal photographic voice.


Demonstration of creativity – for this assignment I chose different locations for every image to get the best image level of creativity. I gone for different angle, different time of the day, different places while I end up with something I am happy with.


Context – played a huge part in this project, researched leaded me to change the assignment idea, critical reviews pushed me towards showing myself through the images I make.


It might be that I did not cover all these criterias in 100 percent, but what is more important my photographic skills definitely improved, documentary is very interesting and very wide theme for immigrants life and issues that I am trying to convey.

Assignment 2 -Single image narratives

Single image narratives


My chosen subject for this assignment is loneliness and emptiness. Both of these abstract subjects closely related to each other. I looked into Pavel Tereshkovets, Julian Legrand and Kevin Hoth documentary photography, where strong creation of loneliness, isolation and emptiness is presented.


The reasons I chosen Black and White photography for my project are:


  1. This removed any distractions, helping viewer to concentrate on special areas of photograph.
  2. For my chosen photographic idea black and white will give more drama and empty/lonely situation become more visible.
  3. Most of documentary photographers use this technique such as William Klein and Michelle Frankfurter.


To be honest I had another idea for this assignment, but mixed felling stopped me from going ahead with this. I felt that is better to do the theme what I really feel. Being foreigner in United Kingdom made me fell really lonely, as I am away from home, friends, parents and relatives. I coped with this felling quite well as I did not have some much spare time, work and studies kept me busy. However becoming a mum and spending lots of time with my child, made me understand how important relationship is and how lonely we truly are.


This pushed me towards this photographic idea; I tried to convey this through my images.


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