As a Toronto based wedding
photographer working in the documentary tradition, here is a little of my
philosophy about reportage or photojournalist (candid) style photography
that serves as a basis of how I approach weddings. Our candid wedding photography,
according to the people who recommend us (such as high end bridal shops),
we are among the top photographers in Toronto working in this tradition.
The term documentary
photography came into wide use during the depression years, when telling
pictures of poverty-stricken farmers awakened Americans to the need for
social reform. (See Elizabeth
the magazine that later did much to promote the genre, defined documentary
photography as a depiction of the real world by a photographer whose
intent is to communicate something of importance - to make a comment - that
will be understood by the viewer.
In North America, the
documentary tradition really began with Jacob
Riis' work on city
slums and Lewis
Hine's expose of child labor abuses. They demonstrated that still photography
could be an effective weapon in rallying the conscience of society.
And indeed, during the
30s, documentary photography emerged as a pervasive voice for social change.
Photographers such as Dorothea
Eugene Smith, André
Kertész and Walker
Evans roamed the world and explored their own backyards to delve into
the human condition - the despair and the suffering as well as the dignity,
strength and transcendent hope that was captured in the best of their work.
Blind Beggar by Jacob
Riis c. 1890
Today, that tradition
Some of the most moving
images seen on television in recent years are not the video footage that
constantly streams across the screen, but the still photographs - the photo
essays - documenting everyday life in places like war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan.
Magazines and newspapers
still occasionally present photo essays on important social topics. And
there are several publications devoted to documentary photography. However,
due to tighter editorial budgets, lengthy photo assignments so often needed
to develop in-depth work are becoming increasingly rare. It is this shortfall
that the Centre helps to alleviate.
High Points in
To briefly summarize
all that documentary photography has contributed to society is difficult,
if not impossible. André
Cartier-Bresson and the many photographers that followed them brought
new views of the world into the homes and offices of ordinary citizens.
We can only estimate how public perceptions changed as a direct result.
In terms of social impact,
certainly one high point for documentary photographers was the depression
of the 30s. In the United States, as many as 15 million were unemployed,
and many were homeless and hungry. The U.S. government sought to provide
assistance to these needy - a measure which was widely unpopular at the
most notably the Farm
Security Agency, hired a small band of photographers to make the plight
of farmers and others in distress better understood by the American population.
The work produced by these photographers (a monumental collection of 270,000
photographs by such greats as Dorothea
Delano, Ann Rosener, Ben
Shahn and Russell
Lee) still stands as one of history's outstanding photographic achievements.
And largely due to this effort, American citizens got behind the government's
efforts to aid the needy.
Such is the power of
an image - and the truth that it captures - to move and change perceptions.
That power is as vital today as it has ever been.
In her notes on this
series of photos, Dorothea Lange wrote: "Migrant agricultural worker's
family. Seven hungry children. Mother aged thirty-two. Father is a native
Californian. Destitute in pea picker's camp, Nipomo, California, because
of the failure of the early pea crop. These people had just sold their tent
in order to buy food. Of the twenty-five hundred people in this camp most
of them were destitute." (U.S. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs
Articles and Information
on Documentary Photography
Essay with even more interesting correspondence renowned photoeditor,
John G. Morris. (“ What’s documentary about photography?: From directed
to digital photojournalism ” by John Mraz)
By Pedro Meyer
the Pulitzer Goes To By David A. Cantor (foto8)
Enough: Photographs by David Seymour
- Essay review by Terry Gips
Cartier-Bresson: From a higher reality to a respect for reality
Photography and the Great Depression
Rights Flyer The Photographer's Right is a downloadable guide that is
loosely based on the ACLU's Bust
Card and the
Know Your Rights flyer.
Geographic Photographers Bios - good summaries on these great photographers.
Being a Photographer
- an excerpt from the book by David Hurn / Magnum and Bill Jay.
Photographer as Auteur: Respecting Authorship - by Mike Johnston
Whats documentary about photography?: From directed to digital photojournalism
by John Mraz