Thoughts on the construction of documentary forms


How to choose subjects?

Subjects are only interesting if they fall at the fulcrum of intersecting meaning streams. Therefor if you see something that seems to connect several ideas which are problematic or contradictory then there is a good chance that it will make an interesting place to start photographing. The world is not looking where it needs to, mostly because of the over commercialisation of images, used to sell products and entertainment, and so the public looses interest in political and social problems because they seem insurmountable. Continue reading


i-am-youThe traditional forms of documentary photography which signal direct engagement with subjects have become ridden with the cliche of sentimentality and confused by issues of truth and authenticity. It now appears as a form of emotional manipulation of the ‘other’ which ignore the corrupting power structures inherent in the medium itself.

To survive documentary practices, investigate the gallery space and in the production for art, through activist or other contexts, negotiates, in most eloquent terms, the value systems of fat media, rich in content motifs. However the art markets primary focus is on the artist. The weight of a thousand years of western art history and a market stretching to 100 billion dollars annually bear down on this. Under this pressure the structures of the industry act solely as a foil inverting the document to excite the promotion of the ‘self’ as artist and pull work away from any attempt at direct contact within critical context.

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A Pairs of Shoes

schuhe“How can the Gulag – a penal camp system already described by its contemporaries as the ‘quintessence’ of Soviet tyranny – be described, how can it be comprehended in all of its dimensions?”
Because of the disrespect that lies in forgetting and the dangerous complicity of ignorance, it is imperative to visit the trauma of others,

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Building bridges between India and Pakistan

It was a dream project, photograph Mumbai with four other Pakistani Photographers and five India photographers would do the same in Karachi. The exhibition a combination of both efforts would represent a moment of trust, if we trust the other to see ourselves, from the other side of the boarder then we might find less difference and more hope. There might be less tension between India and Pakistan, and the poor fishermen who are arrested by each other countries navy, in the sea of distrust that flows between Mumbai and Karachi might not be arrested and there wives and families might live better. It was the desire to bridge the divide between two separated nations brought into the visual world of image-makers, and that scared the fundamentalists.

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A is for Apple

1-1_gandanalla_malcolmhutcheson_007-copyUnavoidably the viewer is a latecomer to the event and the photographer must try to short-circuit the feeling of powerlessness that is created by this. I suggest there is a narrative beyond the moment. It is a narrative beyond the individual photographer it is a narrative engaged with history.

I don’t like the photograph to disappear when one sees into it. I want the surface and the edges to be apparent, to remind the viewer that they are looking at a photograph, and as such it is not a mirror to the scene depicted.

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A Question about a Question

diane-arbus“A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.” Diane Arbus

When looking at a waterfall, we see a blurred form to the water that appears to us as a waterfall. If we allow our eye to move down at the speed of the water we see an instance of water, sharp and well defined as it falls. With photography, we allow ourselves a different form of perception distinct from the flow of events. A separation from the flow of time and an entering into a ‘provable abstraction’, created by the photographer in the form of a question. This separation of an event from time, allows us to remember. But it is the duality of our experience of the photograph, the past appearing in the present that makes photography so intriguing.

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Why I am a Documentary Artist

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 10.59.02Since I first took up a camera, over 30 years ago, photography has evolved, throwing new questions forward for all of us to digest. The theory of photography has become central to writings which influence contemporary art. Documentation, of art works, became works in themselves and the use of found imagery shifted the aesthetic of the medium challenging the traditional values of the print. But this progress of the medium towards a central place in many artists practice has often bypassed photography’s abilities to be used as an agent for change. This quality demands a commitment to a political ideology as well as a referential system of aesthetics and is often misunderstood.

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Edward Said

“For those of us, who by force of circumstance, actually live the pluri-cultural life as it entails Islam and the West, I have long felt that a special intellectual and moral responsibility attaches to what we do as scholars and intellectuals.

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