From early on since the invention of the camera and espcialy from Talbot's easy to reproduce negative, photography has been used as a means to document many many things, from old city streets on the edge of demolition, struggling communities, warzones, industries, the environment, great events, the quirks of society and many more subjects.
Thomas AnnanDocumentary traditions start out rather early in the history of photography with the photographic endeavors of Thomas Annan. Annan and his camera were sent out to Glasgow to make a statistical and visual record of the slums and their conditions in the city for what would become The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow though the years 1868-1871 and what would lay down the foundations of documentary photography. What Annan did was really pioneering in the world of data gathering and was meant to be and was considered at the time to be purely an innovative work in the field of social science. In a historical sense, Annan's efforts have allowed generations from then until now and likely more to come, to understand what Glasgow looked like back then, how the people looked and the situation of back then. Though never intended to be art, some time after its creation, Annan's work would later be seen as art by the artworld and would find its way into galleries.
Besides what was learned in lecture and noted down, a good chunck of context on Annan: http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/Mar2006.html
Eugene AtgetIn the late 1800s, the streets of Paris were set to be destroyed and rebuilt with wide boulevards following revolution in which the narrow streets were frequently and easily blockaded by revolutionares. Not wanting to see the streets of old Paris that he loved lost to history, French photographer Eugene Atget took his camera and recorded photographically the streets for the ages, often one building at a time. Some of his images also captured life on the streets going about there business, there would likely have been some element of construction in these images what with the longer exposure times that had to be worked with back then. Atget's work was very much a matter of cataloguing and documenting French culture, making sure some visual record of it at the time would survive to the future.
Atget information, http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Eugene-Atget.html
Lewis Hine (and Jacob Riis)Again, working for social science related purposes, but also wth a political edge to it, the work of Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis . Lewis Hine famously went about documenting child labour in America taking pictures of little disheveled children next to great big industrial machines and many images like it that evoke sympathy for the subjects. Hine would work with social scientist on his work often, so his early documentary has similar beginings and intentions to those of Annan, but Hine's own twist on this sort of social scientific documentary was to make his photographic work somewhat of an awarness campaign piece with a political tone. Text would accompany the images often and give context. Jacob Riis has similar concrens with the poor and was actually a police reporter. Riis served in many ways a mediator in between the working classes and the upper classes, and his photography served to show people the condition the poorer working class were in an convince those who could help, to help. Hine's images are considered to be more more emotionally engaging with viewers, allowing people to connect with the subjects more through the way they often look into the camera and out of the picture, whereas Riis's work is seen as being more objective overall, though it is not they fail to show the poverty as intended.
Useful Riis Information: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma01/davis/photography/riis/riis.html
FSA Photographers, Walker Evans & Dorothea Lange
When the Great Depression struck the USA, the knock on effects hit more than just the financial city hubs like New York, the USA's agriculture suffered greatly as did those who were part of it. Effects of the Dust Bowl on The Great Plains added to the financial problems afflicting American agriculture and forced many farmers and labours west, headed to the growing California, in search of work. In literature, this grim time in American history is capured famously in John Steinbeck's novels, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Photographically, and without the flare of fiction, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) whose concern was the well being of migrant farmers and labourers moving arose the nation, sponsored widespread photographic documentation of the situation, primarily from the FSA's foundation in 1935 and the year 1936. Their documentary project attracted many photographers, famously Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange.Walker Evans set out on the FSA project and was directed to document small town American life and with an underlying objective to show how the federal government was trying to improve the situation in the rural communities. While Evans did have this underlying objective, he largely ignored it when working and focused more on documenting the people as they were and their everyday lifestyles. Later on, Evans would take a break from the FSA work, and work on different but similar collaborative project in The South that would become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Another photographer who worked on the FSA project was Dorothea Lange. Originally a portait photographer in her studio, after a desire to experiment with photography, Lange tried different styles and with the onset of The Great Depression in 1929 started taking to the streets and photographing, this earned here some note and possibly helped her hone her style for when she came to working on the FSA photographic project. During her time working on the FSA she produced many images, including the famous Migrant Mother photograph, an image which is now synonymous with the USA's Great Depression.
Useful Information on Walker Evans: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm
Useful Information on Dorothea Lange: http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=3373
The sorts of image making laid down by the likes of Annan, Hine, Riis, Evans, Lange and more like them would lay down what would become a sort of documentary tradition in photography. Some cynically view this tradition as the tradition of fairly wealthy people with expensive photographic equipment and employment taking pictures of poor folk in nasty situations. Eventually, there are shifts away from this tradition, charcterised by monochromatic images of poor people and run down or doomed places to other styles and approaches, but it certainly leaves its mark on photography.
British photographic documentarian Mik Critchlow works in within the tradition of documentary photography, but as a later sort of documentary photographer starting his works about 1977, there is a twist on the tradition that becomes more common with photographers like Critchlow. While in the past the photographers were often outsiders venturing into somewhere new and pointing a camera at worse off folk, Critchlow was raised, worked and studied in his primary area of interest, Northumberland, which during Critchlow's time spent photographic, was afflicted with some impoverishment. Critchlow would work on commission as others before him might, but he worked and photographed with genuine and strong empathy for his subject, because in many ways they reflected himself. His first major project saw him document his home town of Ashington, which was a once strong coal mining town, and as the son of a miner himself, Critchlow's personal connection to his work are obvious by way of subject. Later he would document similar subjects, such as the lives of the seacoaling communities of Northumberland in Seacoalers.http://www.mikcritchlow.com/bio and Amber, http://www.amber-online.com/people/14
Robert CapaRobert Capa was a photojournalist, arguably one of the most famous photojournalists, especially noted for his war photography. How Capa worked may not be considered overtly documentary with its photojournalistic intentions, but by way of photographing places, people and events as they happened so thoroughly, Capa's work is a form of documentary photography. Many of Capa's images have an element of the style of the documentary traditions of Hine and Lange about them in the way many of his photographs of people are emotively engaging.Capa always took a be where the action is sort of approach to photography, famous giving advice to amateurs saying, 'if your images aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.' He was also less concerned with the technicalities of photography and more about the image saying 'I'd rather have a strong image that is technically bad than visa versa.' This mentality is evident in his Magnificent Eleven images of the D-Day landing at Normandy where the images are all motion blurred, shaky were famously from heat damaged negatives of which the great majority were destroyed and despite this the remaining eleven images are strong regardless. Getting close and to know his subjects was another of Capa's approaches, such as him getting to know the American soldiers he travels with in WWII or photographing is famous friends in ways which allowed him to capture on film more intimate moments. Capa like some of the traditional documentary photographers would often have a a touch of politic in his work, like taking photos of American soldiers posing mockingly with great Swastikas.
Robert Capa books:
Aperture, (1996) Robert Capa/Photographs Aperture, Aperture, Clerkenwell House, London
Capa, Cornell., Whelan Richard., (eds) (1985) Robert Capa: Photographs, Faber and Faber, London
Robert Capa online informaton from, http://www.vanityfair.com/unchanged/2014/06/photographer-robert-capa-d-day and http://www.skylighters.org/photos/robertcapa.html
Anna Fox is documentary photographer who was one of a number of documentary photographers who started to a break from the traditions of documentary photography. This wave of documentary photographers that Anna Fox was part of the start of, started a shift away from the tradational way of documenting problems and instead to documenting the ordinary. Anna Fox's work is documentary as a sort of social observation, it looks at quite ordinary things, but are photographed in a way feels almost satirical by way of being ordinary. There is a sense of humor to her work, in part in composition, but often through the use of text with the images, such as the juxtaposition of local news snipets and interviews with local people and images of related subjects in Basingstoke, which was made in Basingstoke during the late 1980s. Basingstoke was heavily influence by Fox's group of fellow photographers from whom she learned such as Martin Parr and Paul Graham. Later on, Anna fox working on commision for Butlin's with Resort 1, started to bring in elements of construction into her images. This sort of thing perhaps detracts from the reality of the images, but due to the nature of being a commissioned piece sponsored by Butlin's, perhaps to give it some commercial appeal and meet Butlin's needs, some elements of construction were required. Such ventures create debate as to the nature of documentary and what it should be capturing. Fox's work also used colour, in some images, quite vibrant use of it, which again was start of a departure from the tradition documentary photography as colour was seen as somewhat crass in documentary by the documentary traditionalists.
Again, a documentary photographer breaking away from the traditions documentary photography is Paul Graham. Graham was part of the same wave of documentary photographers as Anna Fox, and thus moved away from tradition in a similar way. During the 1980s towards the start of his documentary days, Graham photographed the ordinary, but not with a complete break from photographing problems. In Beyond Caring (1984-85), Paul Graham documented part of his everyday life, his trips to the dole office in search of work. In this sense, he was photographing a problem, because during the 1980s, economic strife swept over parts of the UK and cause unemployment thanks to Thatcher's somewhat controversial policies, but he was no outsider to it, it was his ordinary, and so he documented it. Beyond Caring also had a rather unique from the hip sort fo composition to its images, making it feel almost covert. In this work, Graham was making documentary where he was no longer an observer. Another project Graham worked about the same time was Troubled Land, which documented The Troubles in Northern Ireland. His approach with the work was not to document the violence or street protests or the people and politicians involved, but instead uses subtler compositions with subtle subjects. Much like what was often the case in Northern Ireland, he 'booby trapped' his images, by photographing scenes that would otherwise look ordinary for all but some subtle hint in frame to The Troubles. Colour was often key, such as the red, white and blue of a Union Flag in amongst lush countryside green or an Irish tricolour painted on a curb.http://www.paulgrahamarchive.com/index.html
Martin ParrOf the same wave 1980s documentary photography that breaks away from the tradions of documentary and bringing it into a different age is Martin Parr. Martin Parr's work is very much removed from the old traditions of documentary a good few ways, for one, all but his earlier work is rich with colour, and unlike the cliche of tradional documentary photography, he doesn't photograph problems or poor folk, but much like Anna Fox (who keenly followed Parr's work) photographs the more ordinary, but in a way that is quite humourous, light hearted and very British. His work overall feels as though it has a touch of the Carry On movies about them almost, it is of that sort of Britishness I feel, and Parr photgraphs with a clever sense of irony and plays with the notion of common sense. Martin Parr's extensive body of work move from the traditional documetary in the the realms of social satire and become more light hearted in style and subject, and becomes social documentary. A good example of Parr's that shows off these qualities is The Last Resort (1983-85) whereby Parr took is camera to the seaside resort town of New Brighton and photographed people going about the freetime in the town, holidaying and having fun. It feels like it could almost be soundtracked to a Whirlitzer verion of Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside and the squaking of seagulls. Similarly, a very British humoured social observation is apparent in his work Think of England (1998-2000), where he explores English identity in a photo-essay style. It is quite tongue in cheek and especially on the more seaside images, feels not unlike The Last Resort. Parr's work Small World (1989-1994) also has the same sort of tongue in cheek style, and explores the nature of tourism around the World, and how overexposure of certain destinations starts to detract from their original attraction as tourists flood them. I takes an ironic sort of look at these great tourist destinations and often seeks out the cliche in the scenes he photographs.
Martin Parr Inforation: http://www.martinparr.com/
https://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2S5RYDYDHEB9 and https://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=29YL53AJ63L and https://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=29YL53G7RT3
Sirkka-Liisa KonttinenThe shift away from the traditions of documentary photography in the later half of the 20th century comes comes across many ways in the works of Finnish photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen. Being an outsider to the UK and having spent time in in London, SLK moved north no Newcastle and to the area of Byker where she settled and set up a small studio. In once sense, SLK's beginings stay close to the traditions of documentary in that she is an outsider, but over her time in Byker and the North East, she ended up part of the community and no longer an outsider and in this way, SLK twisted rather uniquely away from tradition. Starting in the 1969 and eventually being published in 1985, SLK's work Byker documents life in area of Byker over the period and her own experiance there and with its inhabitants as the whole area was slowly knocked down to be redeveloped and many people there resettled. With Byker there is a strong theme of change that is also present in many of her later works as Byker is slowly redeveloped, which feels almost akin to Thomas Annan's documenting of the Glasgow slums or Eugene Atget's charting of old Paris, only with a stronger social element to it. By living in Byker as she documented it, she could better understand her subject and subjects and in some ways become the subject, she made friends, helped neighbors, listened to peoples' troubles in the local pub and picked up the dialect to the point of it being said that she 'speaks Finnish with a Geordie accent.' All of this allowed her to create the work with a great deal of empathy and understanding for her subject. Byker was not the most well off of areas, but Byker is not really about looking at unfortunate folk as by documentary tradition, it is more about the social aspects that it documents and such is more of the social documentary sort of documentary photography that emerges in the 1980s with the likes of Paul Graham and Martin Parr. Of course, Byker is in black and white and gives it the aestetic of the traditional documentary, but as for SLK's over her career, this does not remain and she shifts to colour for later work. As becomes a trend of the social documentarian photographers like Martin Parr and Anna Fox, as well as being displayed in gallery, publication as a photobook becomes a part of the Byker and SLK's subsequent work. In photobook form, Byker becomes much a text and image piece where SLK's own accounts and summaries of her life in Byker are joined by snippets of conversations and anecdotes by the locals and mixed around the images. The text not only gives context but allows for immersion, especially pieces in local Geordie dialect and bits of local rhyme (perhaps as local of the North East, this comes across stronger for me already having an understanding), which is one of the strong uses of text in combination with image in Byker. SLK also made an accompanying film with Byker (1981) that drew upon the photographic work and had a mix of interviews, documentary footage and some dramatisation. In the photographic work, there are some elements of the constructed, but work as documentary as SLK worked with indivdual locals to create the images and let them have their own input in the creation of the images as much as her own. Step by Step (1983) is another of SLK's photobooks that follows a very similar format to Byker in that is black and white text and image with many similar sorts of images and follows a North Shields dance group, and features many of the more intimate sorts of images of people in close quaters. SLK retured to the North East with Coal Coast (1998-2002) which documented sites up and down the North East coast where there were visible remnants of the once strong coal industry in the North East, be it the mining of it or its proscessing. With Coal Coast, SLK is not only quite far removed from the traditions of documentary, but also her previous work, for one it a shift into colour but also the images themselves are unpopulated and concern themselves with an aftermath of people (though is still arguably linked a theme of change, in a post change way). Coal Coast is a shift in style for SLK, and is perhaps more an environmental documentary work more than social documentary, though it could be called post-social documentary. As before though, part of SLK's approach of getting to know the area and its people was part of the process in the making of Coal Coast, even if people aren not featured directly as is explained in the introductory text, which again is another element retained. The text is that is combined dorectly with images is mostly just titles, though they are quite in depth titles with date and location. Following Coal Coast, SLK returns to Byker in Byker Revisited (2009) which is largely different in style to Byker by way of a number of changes, obviously shifts in SLK's career like the move to colour for one, but also the socio-geographic nature of Byker had much changed following the redevelopment and so did SLK's style of photographing it. People were no longer sauntering the streets as much as they once were and were less keen to have the now stranger SLK photographing them. The architecture of area had changed to that of the big Byker Wall and there had been a great influx of immigrants to the area bringing in many different cultures. Thus in in Byker Revisited, SLK kept more to her intimate style of photographing people in a way in which they wanted to and helped guide her camera, as before in a few Byker images, though as the image with the dog and the bubble in Byker Revisited, they were not entirely without spontaneity like that seen before in the Byker images of the girl on the spacehopper.
Lots of SLK Links: http://www.amber-online.com/people/32 http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/08/bringing-color-to-newcastle/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0 > http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/aug/12/photography-sirkka-liisa-konttinen > http://vimeo.com/54539493
Julian Germain is a photographer who does a variety of documentary work. An example of a sort of a post-social documentary piece of his is Found (2010) where the subject is people related, but not directly so, and like Coal Coast is concrened with things left behind by people, but also like Anna Fox's work, is concrened with normal and fairly rather innocent subject matter. Found is a serious of still lives of items found on the Tyne and Wear Metro and almost invites those who view it to figure out how those items came to be left behind on the Metro. Germain work on The Great North Run called The Running Line (2006-2007) serves a sort of documentary piece. A user generated content project whereby Germain sourced images from runners, watchers, trainers and people all related to the race in some way. This was a project that let people go out and document the great sporting event with Germains curation. It was installed in Salwell park as great long chain of images. The nature if it being a great collecting of many peoples' photographs means its user generated nature of documenting an event history means it moves between documentary photography and Personal Photography.
Julian Germain Links, like his site and its biography, http://www.juliangermain.com/biography.php and projects, http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/running-line.php and http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/found.php