The moment I decided that I wanted to become a photographer; I was looking at Tim Hetherington’s photos from Afghanistan, in one of the Sunday supplements. The power of those documentary images has never left me. From that moment I have had a steadily growing obsession with photography and image making, especially in the documentary area.
We have now been introduced to the first major Unit of the course: Documentary. Leading this Unit is the photographer and educator Anna Fox. “What is Documentary?… A story mediated by the story teller.” She told us during our first lecture, she went on to talk about various documentary photographers which I will list and link bellow. She also showed us some of her work that ranges from fine art to documentary; I personally don’t find that it does much for me, but I am able to appreciate it. We were also shown some of her most recent work that she shot at ‘Butlins’ (British holiday camps), again not my particular flavour of ice-cream, especially as she said that most of the shots where composited. Several frames are merged to get all the required expressions in one image, a practice that frankly makes me a bit nervous. The work is on show at the James Hyman Gallery in London.
In terms of the work that we are required to produce for this Unit, we were given three mini projects and a larger final body of work. The mini projects comprise of a Street project that requires candid and consented portraits, a point of view exercise, to examine the effect that different angles have on the subject and we need to gain access to a space to photograph. The larger body of work entitled ‘Stranger’, does what it says on the tin, we need to photograph the life of a person we have never met before and do not know intimately. As you can imagine several ‘oh fuck’s issued from the crowd of young students at this point, this is a daunting project its true, but I can’t wait to get going. Gaining access is half the battle for documentary photographers so this should be a useful exercise that will hopefully produce a good body of work.
I will keep you updated as it develops.
Jacob Riis: Photographing to raise awareness for social reform.
Lewis Hine: Social Documentarian.
Henri Cartier- Bresson: One of my favourite photographers, known for his street work.
Tony Ray Jones: Documenting the English in the 70s.
Raghu Rai: Indian urban landscapes.
W. Eugene Smith: A remarkable photographer, one of the pioneers of the photo essay, in this case we were looking at his ‘Country Doctor’ piece.
Jullian Germain: His project ‘For every minute you are angry you lose 60 seconds of happiness’ is similar to our Stranger project.
Martin Parr: Documents the English especially, well known for his project: ‘Last Resort’.
Nan Goldin: She documented a grunge/sexually promiscuous culture in the 80s with ‘A Ballard of Sexual Dependency’.
Larry Clark: His project ‘Tulsa’ documents his friends, their promiscuity and drug taking.
Susan Lipper: Documented a rural American community in ‘Grapevine’
Peter Hugo: Documentary Portraiture.