Essay documentary photography


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This might appear to suggest an acceptable date from which to begin studying ethics in American photojournalism — why not start at the beginning of photography? Photojournalism is a large and diverse field with very little consensus regarding ethics, even within small sub-genres community newspaper photojournalism, for example. Each publication and news organization sets its own ethical standards, which may simply come down to what it will tolerate, or what will sell more papers, in terms of pushing the ethical envelope.

Sometimes these rules are written down in concrete codes of ethics, and sometimes they are simply the empirical sum of what is acceptable to the staff or a particular editor at a particular publication. Images in our pages that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way. No people or objects may be added, rearranged, reversed, distorted or removed from a scene except for the recognized practice of cropping to omit extraneous outer portions.

Pictures of news situations must not be posed. In the cases of collages, montages, portraits, fashion or home design illustrations, fanciful contrived situations and demonstrations of how a device is used, our intervention should be unmistakable to the reader, and unmistakably free of intent to deceive. Captions and credits should further acknowledge our intervention if the slightest doubt is possible.

The design director, a masthead editor or the news desk should be consulted on doubtful cases or proposals for exceptions.

Documentary Photography - Six Tips for Creating a Legacy

After tracing the history of ethics in photojournalism and examining the state of those ethics today, one cannot help but wonder where photojournalistic ethics are going. Since nobody can confidently predict the future, the only option is to examine current trends and extrapolate. Of course, without a crystal ball there is no way to be sure. Likewise, technology will almost certainly be the driving influence regarding ethics in the future. Multiple factors will drastically change the ethical landscape.

These include the further assimilation of digital photography work-flows into the newsroom, the improvement of consumer photo technology, and the omnipresence of photo technology — including cameras in portable devices such as cell phones and PDAs. The shift away from printed material and towards electronic media for image consumption will also leave its own mark on photojournalistic ethics. Digital photography is the predominant means of image capture for American newspaper and magazine photojournalism today.

Not only has it been that way for several years, the rate at which it has taken over is astounding. This bitwise blitzkrieg of sorts has brought with it new and difficult ethical challenges.

Body Building Documentary / photo essay

Photographs were fixed on pieces of film — acetate coated in a chemical emulsion — and developed in chemical baths. While not impossible, it was far more difficult to pull off a convincing photo fake. Twenty years ago, Brian Walski could never have doctored his image in the field. What might have taken minutes on his laptop would have taken hours, or even days, in a darkroom.

Newer cameras and more powerful editing software both impact photojournalistic ethics, however sometimes that impact can be surprising.

What Is a Photo Essay? 17 Examples and Ideas

Since so much of the substance of journalistic ethics is about the process rather than the result, technology that enables new or old processes will automatically impact the ethical landscape. One recent example is the release of the Nikon D2x camera. The D2x is a professional caliber SLR with a unique feature — it allows the photographer to create multiple-exposure images in the camera itself.

This allowed the photographer to expose the same frame of film multiple times. One frequent use for this feature was to couple it with a motor drive, and take a sequence of photos that showed motion throughout a single frame. With the advent of the digital SLR, photographers lost the ability to use this technique in-camera. For a similar effect, photographers could take a series of images and overlay them with digital editing software. Many of these mobile devices are networked cell phones, for example , and are capable of transmitting images in near real time.

This widespread citizen media production and consumption raises an important question. At first the question seems compelling for two reasons — access and tools. In terms of access, it is impossible for a small cadre of trained photojournalists to be everywhere and to photograph everything that is newsworthy. There were no working photojournalists aboard the London bus and trains that were bombed, but there were people with camera phones.

How Real is the Reality of Documentary Photography ?

In the photojournalism industry, professionalism means technical skill, news gathering experience, and of course ethics. Photojournalist Nancy L. Ford writes:. The photojournalist must capture the truth, too. They must not move things around on the scene of an event to make the pictures look better. They must not alter their photographs on the computer or in the darkroom, like take an ugly telephone pole out of a picture. The photojournalist must also tell the truth, just like the reporter.

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The same photographs could represent responsible people attempting to restore law and order, or ruthless invaders plundering the country that was their victim, your choice, depending on who you are and where you are. With technology enabling even the most unskilled amateur to take good quality photographs such misrepresentations are likely to occur more frequently. This professionalism, experience, and instinct is what ensures the existence of the photojournalist well into the future. Reportage has occured since the dawn of printed news, yet seldom is the place of the professional print journalist questioned.


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In the world of written journalism, professional journalists who are bound by their own ethics cull quotations from non-journalists. Absent blogs, nobody asks citizens to write whole news articles about what they witness. If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have the essay published on the UK Essays website then please:. Essays Photography.

Essays, UK. November Documentary photography. All Answers Ltd. Copy to Clipboard Reference Copied to Clipboard. Documentary photography [Internet]. It also introduces the idea of pacing within groupings of photographs: of having photographs that are taken from different distances and show a different sense of scale.


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  • The choice of establishing shot depends substantially on the story that is being told, the fundamental ideas being communicated. It locates the other photographs in a particular place or environment. So this assignment introduced the idea of constructing a narrative through several photographs, of trying to communicate a story through visual means.

    After this assignment the students were tasked with producing short picture stories: groupings of images on a specific theme, created from the three visual elements described above. Other kinds of images like portraits and close up details could be added to extend the story and vary the visual structure of the narrative. In this way, the experience of constructing smaller picture stories gradually develops into undertaking longer photo essays and documentary projects.

    The Newport system was quite widely criticized. It was seen by some as being old fashioned, perhaps even reactionary, harking back to the dying traditions of magazine photojournalism within the publications Picture Post and Life magazine rather than aligning itself with contemporary trends and emerging practices within documentary photography.

    It was seen by many as being reductive, simplistic and tending towards the formulaic rather than encouraging individual creativity. Of course the world cannot be broken down into such neat typologies. But the Newport system provides a template that can be applied to many situations as well as a set of rules that can be reacted against.

    Thinking of different ways of making pictures encourages a process of reflection and analysis and advances the development of workable visual strategies. In complex and rapidly changing social situations it is often difficult to decide what to photograph, what not to photograph and where to position the frame.

    The system is also flexible enough to be employed for approaches other than photojournalism. In particular it offers clear potential for anthropologists interested in recording aspects of the social world for later analysis or equally for undertaking a photographic documentation in order to present research in a visual format. Such photo essays offer visual anthropologists a set of tools and an overall framework within which to operate and experiment. Working closely with people over an extended period of time, observing and recording the minutiae of human behavior brings the photo essay very close to the ethnographic methodologies of social scientists.

    The photo essay is not the only approach to producing documentary photography in social situations. Indeed it is not that commonly employed by contemporary photographers. Other approaches include working serially, producing an extended series of photographs that are structurally and formally similar: a group of interiors, portraits or still life details for example. Contemporary digital cameras are extraordinarily sophisticated technologies. They remove much of the craft, skill and knowledge once needed to produce high quality images. But as yet they cannot make essential decisions about framing or understand what is significant and worth photographing.

    And for some photographers, there is another issue.


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    Digital technologies produce images with a similar overall tonal quality and feel. Many fine art documentary photographers are using larger format film cameras or other analogue technologies as a reaction to this tendency. In an increasingly competitive field, documentary photographers increasingly want to assert individual authorship over their images: a recognizable authorial style is important in the current marketplace.

    This clearly clashes with the idea of documentary as a relatively neutral and value-free process of recording. It also runs contrary to anthropological ideas of incorporating the perspectives of others into visual representations of the world. Editing single pictures from a shoot, whether by selecting individual frames from contact sheets or choosing between digital files displayed on a computer screen is a process of reduction, of weeding out the weaker images and choosing the more effective images.

    But when producing a short picture story, a longer photo essay or a documentary project, editing becomes a process of construction, of bringing together different kinds of images and different design elements to build a varied visual narrative. The specifics of this process depends partly on the nature and the scale of the intended output: whether it is for a magazine essay, a book, an exhibition for a gallery wall, a projection at a festival, or a portfolio on a website.

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