Documentary Photography: The Paradox of Reality

Documentary Photography: The Paradox of Reality


With the modern advancements of photography, it becomes harder to categorize genres of photography. What defines a documentary photograph? With the possibility of photo manipulation pre shot and post shot make these lines hard to draw.


"One of the ways that we have always understood this photography is as that which registers only what occurs, without getting in the way of or influencing the course of relations and situations that appear before us; as that photography which testifies how things happen. "


There is no way of concretely knowing weather or not a staged photo can or can not be considered documentary. It all depends on what exactly your depiction of documentation entails. Is it something that transpired naturally or is it arts imitation of life? Both capture something and in that essence, both are technically documentary of the time. There is also no knowing which medium should best be considered documentary although medium does influence how the documentation is received. This argument is not to say that every photo is a documentary, but that every photo can be perceived as a documentation in the "context of the creator." If I take a specific picture, it captures my personal "ideologies, crisies, beliefs, dreams, utopias, realities, ecetera."


"Perhaps this all began when someone decided that black and white documentary

photography reflected reality, without even questioning why we accept this when color is

the reality."


In sum, the author concludes that to document is to ultimately be able to communicate something with a photograph. Although movies are increasingly relied on to communicate stories, the actor acts as a bit of a confounding factor. The photographer and a still image is what makes things political.


Sebastian Salgado believes that photography only has the potential to make people realize change might be necessary. The more images people see, the more perspective they have of the world and therefore the more potential for them to see a need for change. This argument also backs up the argument of documentary photography having broad connotations.

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