You are on page 1of 120

DOCUMENTARY STRATEGIES

EXAMPLES FROM AN AMERICAN CONTEXT

What is a document? What is documentary? A question of the real and relation to representation: to giving an account. Real / Realism Document / Documentary / Documentary style

What is a document? What is documentary? A question of the real and relation to representation: to giving an account. Real / Realism Document / Documentary / Documentary style

What is a document? What is documentary? A question of the real and relation to representation: A question of giving an account. Real / Realism Document / Documentary / Documentary style

What is a document? What is documentary? A question of the real and relation to representation: A question of giving an account. Real / Realism Document / Documentary / Documentary style

What is a document? What is documentary? A question of the real and relation to representation: A question of giving an account. Real / Realism Document / Documentary / Documentary style

Molly Nesbit on the document (via Eugene Atget) *The document before 1914 was seen to be without aesthetic properties the document had no prescribed form: in absolute terms we could say it was a detailed blank it was an impersonal, expository picture, the zero degree of the image taking shape as its job became clear. *A document is utilitarian, or functional it is put to use A document could not exist alone it needed a viewer and a task Molly Nesbitt, in A New History of Photography, ed. M. Frizot, p.401 + 403

What is documentary photography?

The term documentary was rst used on 8 February 1926, by the lmmaker John Grierson. He used the term documentary in the New York Sun to describe Robert Flahertys lm Moana, about the daily life of Polynesian Islanders. ! ! !

What is documentary photography?

The concept of documenta7on is inherent in the nature of the photographic process. That is, the camera makes a record of the event within its eld of vision at the instant of exposure. the term documentary came to refer to photographs made from a specically humanis7c point of view. Preface, Observa0ons: Essays on Documentary Photography, David Featherstone, ed, p. vii. "What is a documentary photograph? With equal jus7ce one might respond by saying 'just about everything' or alterna7vely, 'just about nothing'." Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Photography at the Dock, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, p. 169.

What is documentary photography?

The concept of documenta7on is inherent in the nature of the photographic process. That is, the camera makes a record of the event within its eld of vision at the instant of exposure. the term documentary came to refer to photographs made from a specically humanis7c point of view. Preface, Observa0ons: Essays on Documentary Photography, David Featherstone, ed, p. vii. "What is a documentary photograph? With equal jus7ce one might respond by saying 'just about everything' or alterna7vely, 'just about nothing'." Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Photography at the Dock, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, p. 169.

What is documentary photography?

The concept of documenta7on is inherent in the nature of the photographic process. That is, the camera makes a record of the event within its eld of vision at the instant of exposure. the term documentary came to refer to photographs made from a specically humanis7c point of view. Preface, Observa0ons: Essays on Documentary Photography, David Featherstone, ed, p. vii. "What is a documentary photograph? With equal jus7ce one might respond by saying 'just about everything' or alterna7vely, 'just about nothing'." Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Photography at the Dock, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991, p. 169.

Documentary: Arrives as a photographic genre as neither art nor advertising nor journalism; a form of media predicated on picture-story Concerned with a form of story-telling either as exposure of the unseen or as visual commentary (on way-of-life or on how the other half live ) A concern for observing everyday practices; presenting the world in action Neither picture nor document: has attributes of both: a method of framing the world to produce a story A range of publishing platforms: newspapers, magazines, galleries, online

Add Foto8

Grierson denes documentary as a kind of educational media: the observation of the ordinary or the actual and the discovery within the actual of the patterns which give it signicance for civic education Not a servile accumulation of fact but an emotional map A search for what actually moves: what hits the spectator at the midriff: what yanks him up by the hair of the head or the plain boot straps to the plane of decent seeing cited in John Tagg, The Plane of Decent Seing , The Disciplinary Frame

Grierson denes documentary as The creative treatment of actuality cited in David Bate Photography: The Key Concepts, p.56 (originally: The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology)

John Tagg: In the mutation from document to documentary , however, we are dealing with a new level of activity of the extended State The history of documentary is therefore the history of a specic management of representation that has to be located in the cultural strategy of a particular kind of governance: a hybrid of discipline and spectacle; a strategy of management of meaning and identity document > documentary from surveillance (document) to a rhetoric of recruitment (documentary) in his The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning, 2009, University of Minnesota Press, p.xxxii

John Tagg: In the mutation from document to documentary , however, we are dealing with a new level of activity of the extended State The history of documentary is therefore the history of a specic management of representation that has to be located in the cultural strategy of a particular kind of governance: a hybrid of discipline and spectacle; a strategy of management of meaning and identity document > documentary from surveillance (document) to a rhetoric of recruitment (documentary) in his The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning, 2009, University of Minnesota Press, p.xxxii

Martha Rosler: it is customary to distinguish social documentary from documentary per se The more general term denotes photographic practice having a variety of aesthetic claims but without any involvement in expos In, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)

Some examples for today: Lewis Hine Walker Evans Robert Frank Nan Goldin

Some examples for today: Lewis Hine (1910-20s) Walker Evans (1930s) Robert Frank (1950s) Nan Goldin (1980s)

Some examples for today: Lewis Hine / direct encounter Walker Evans / lyrical association Robert Frank / subjective positions Nan Goldin / intimate snapshot

Some examples for today: Lewis Hine / Jacob Riis [Jim Goldberg] Walker Evans / FSA, Dorothea Lange [Alec Soth] Robert Frank / Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander Nan Goldin / [Wolfgang Tilmans, Rinko Kawauchi]

LEWIS HINE: bearing witness" generating evidence

Not a portrait of the dreams of the modern era The exposure of the labour that runs the modern era

Lewis Hine, wri7ng in 1910: My child-photos have already set the authori7es to work to see if such things can be possible . They try to get round them by crying fake but therein lies the value of the data and a witness. My sociological horizon broadens hourly

The this-really-exists " Proof not picture Documentary photography as the socially-embedded image Exposing social practices, not sensibilities

They were here doing this

Pity vs. Empathy Jacob Riis vs. Lewis Hine

An art of disclosure The demand to participate Alan Trachtenberg: [Hine s images seek] the social act lay in communication. Hine developed methods of presenting his pictures as mute monuments seeking a voice in the viewer s imagination, a voice in dialogue in his Camera Work / Social Work , in his Reading American Photographs , p,203

"

Jim Goldberg GREECE. Lavrio. 2005. Two detained Afghani refugees point to the refrigerator on which they wrote (approximate translation) 'The Sea of Sadness has no shore'. (Their English translation is 'in the open see (sic) dont have border') Lavrio Detention Center. 2005

Jim Goldberg GREECE. Athens. 2003. Muzaffar "Alex" Jafari writes about his journey on foot from Afghanistan to Greece via Iran. Now Alex is in school and supports himself by working in a call center. 2003

Lewis Hine, Young Russian Jewess on Ellis Island, New York, 1905

Alan Trachtenberg on Lewis Hine: his pictures invite and demand a particular kind of participatory viewing Social photography meant that the photograph itself performed a social act, made a particular communication !

Photography as motivation A spur into action Photography as motivated

From fact to emotional map " " The plane of decent seeing " " A recruitment to a cause

Hine: Some comments on method: *Clarity we see them clearly *Equality we see them like us *Communication we hear something, we make contact

WALKER EVANS: the photographic series, the imaginative sequence, documentary as style 1. Photographer as poet of the actual 2. Interested in art photography as well as straight observation lyrical and frontal 3. Associated with the Farm Security Administration (also known as the FSA) who employed photographers to document the plight of farmers during the Depression. Published two important photographic books American Photographs and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (with James Agee). 4. Dis-associated from FSA to show work in the museum (rst photographer to show at MOMA, NY)

From confronting human activity in person to an analysis of human activity at large : From the face to the sign ; documenting the structure of the street the public sphere as more than just pavement; as places of entertainment, popular culture, social practices The photographer as analyst and aneur

A key inuence: EUGENE ATGET" For Evans, Atget did not make a sentimental poetry of the street but a precise: editing of society, a clinical process; even enough of a cultural necessity to make one wonder why other so-called advanced countries of the world have not also been examined and recorded.

Documentary-style : Ambiguity in the face of " closed meaning / xed forms" " The edit of Amercian Photographs! ! A work of sequence and association! ! From to! ! Photograph to photograph

Documentary-style : Ambiguity in the face of " closed meaning / xed forms" " The edit of American Photographs! ! A work of sequence and association! ! From to! ! image to street! ! Relation of image to ! ! 1. real life / way of life ! 2.Desire! 3.The realisation of desire?

The places of social encounter" " The street as:" " The park bench / The movie poster" " The cultural imaginary (its fantasies)" " The material conditions of a culture

John Roberts: " " The FSA embodies the unprecedented use of the photographic archive by the state to produce forms of ideological consensus [the FSA as a form of] structural consensus building " " the safe waters of human tragedy rather than the muddy waters of class struggle " " " In his The state, the everyday and the archive in his The Art of Interruption , p.81"

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, 1936" " A mythic representation?" " The gure of eternal suffering ?!

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Walker Evans (images) James Agee (text), published 1941 (pictures taken 1936) A discontinuous image-sequence A chain of associations rather than a dened message

Where are the people? How does Evans represent the people to themselves ? Is the truth of these pictures self-evident or does it arrive through the sets of relationships? (Does the viewer participate in this meaning production?) A refusal of the self-evident transparency of documentary Yet: A commitment to the socially-embedded image A use of the modern fractured and discontinuous aesthetic for social purposes

Alec Soth Niagara 2006

Evans: Some comments on method: *Hot Disinterestedness something presented objectively whilst related to a subjective principle: poverty, street culture, culture of love *The everyday: an exploration of the poetics of the vernacular *Association: between a number of related images a set of ideas emerge

ROBERT FRANK:
Alienation / Americans
1. Produced highly inuential book The Americans in 1958 Documentary work to be seen in context of positive vision of world in Edward Steichen s Family of Man and negative / dystopian views of Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, William Klein 2. Inuenced by Beat culture moves into lm-making in 1960s, returning to photography / collage in the 1970s 3. Work that attempts to convey feeling as well as factuality 4. Uses associations of mythic symbols, often in an inverted relation the ag, the car, the cowboy, the road

A context: The Family of Man *an exhibition between 1955-1962 it travels from New York across continental divides including Moscow (approx. 38 countries, 9 million visitors) Now on permanent installation at Chateau de Clervaux, Luxembourg *a book a popular photo-essay

What familiar symbols or tropes do we see here? How are they presented? What methods of association or inversion are used? (from between the frame to within the frame)

Two models: 1. How the other half live: bearing witness / sometimes accused of middle-class voyeurism 2. Modes of living: observation on way of life critical analysis of one s context

Robert Frank: I wanted the view anybody could see

DIANE ARBUS To re-present the familiar humanist subject the mother the home the happy family A presentation of a universal human subject with a twist

LEE FRIEDLANDER To present the margins of existence The omni-presence of the television The multi-perspective of modern life From an aesthetics of clarity to a demonstration of fragmentation A refusal of the moment to a demonstration of the pressures of contemporary public life: Media Advertising The commodity

Frank: Some comments on method: *The roving eye; a perspective that is not xed a wandering viewpoint *Symbolic detours: to address those symbols that are often used to mobilise us (the nation, the family) in a critical fashion *Fragment: to present a world that is not unied, that is not complete

NAN GOLDIN: THE SNAP-SHOT Some dening features of this trend: *Photograph as souvenir of experience not as objective document *Seeming non-professional relationship to camera less concerned with technique than the immediacy of the event *Where is the distance in their work? The photographer / camera / event / subject become fused (the photographer doesn t observe the event but is implicated in the event) *some snapshot photographers: Nan Goldin, Nobuyoshi Araki, Terry Richardson, Hiromix, Ed Templeton, Larry Clark!

Snapshot method meets structural grouping: The gure of the Couple

Another gure: The lone gure coupled with the/ir image (to search for an other ) *What does colour do here? (from analysis to mood , from distance to proximity)

Love, Violence, Death Another model of symbolic association From the immediate to the eternal From little moments to big topics A treatment of epic topics through micro-event

Goldin: Some comments on method: *A posing of the most intimate moment *An exploration of where private and public meet how does the intimate self encounter an exterior world; what is the interface *A picturing of the social fabric in which the photographer is weaved; not going out there to bring back exotic images of others