TPACA Ch. 6 Moments in History

Documentary photography has been a focus of critical thought. Questions asked about how images are produced. Who for? Why? They were examined in the second chapter of Liz Well’s book. From the spectacle to something else. From the papers and magazines to the gallery. Engaging in new markets. There has been a fashion for the anthesis of the old documentary forms. Moving from the action of Capa, to a stillness. From the moment to almost psychogeographical monitoring. Aftermaths. Contemplation. Avoiding certain cliches and exploitative images.

Landscapes and spaces tied to history.

Artistic conventions applied to events using techniques and forms from other forms…the painting. etc.

Deadpan. Neutral (but not?)

When documentating people an attempt to empower them. To not reduce them. The photographer is witness to the subjects conversation. The photographer is “more aware” of the relationship between subject and witness. The subject is “allowed to control” their representation. Images are supported by quotes and audio. Additions to give the subject voice.

The photographer needs to engage with the subject. To gather these details, to avoid charges of explotations. There is an attempt not to merely glean from the surface but to add to knowledge. To increase the depth and range of vision. No longer a kind of tourist. Collabortions.

This relationship to the subject is extended into the presentation. Images are placed into complex structures of word and meaning and image. This web is a defence against the soundbite. Segments can not be detached and reduced.For example, Jim Goldberg’s Open See which layers meaning and voice. Images and objects. Becoming dense and thick and heavy, reflecting the subject.

Aesthetic differences as metaphors. The quality of the photograph as a comment. Paul Graham’s invisible people, whited out pages.

They are complex images.

Form and context are utilised to add to the images. They are no longer as immediate. No longer tomorrow’s front page, but in the gallery space they can have a complexity, they can use the series and play with ideas, shifting along the documentary continuum.

Is power lost by this shift? Or gained?

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Filed under Nov 2011, Readings

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