How many Documentary style photographers on APUG?

Discussion in 'Journalism and Documentary' started by gerryyaum, Aug 23, 2008.

  1. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Was wondering how many of the photogs on this site shoot documentary style images of people?

    Who has been influenced by:

    W Eugene Smith
    Mary Ellen Mark
    Sebastiao Salgado

    ???
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I would say that most documentary photographers focus on people as subjects, and are at least familiar with the work of those three, and many others. As far as being "influenced by", they certainly are three influential photographers, in general!

    I personally lean toward documentary and journalism when left to my own devices. In the projects so far, probably about About 75% have been about people, but more based on artifacts than on their actual appearances or activities. The other 25% have involved shooting actual pix of people, alive and moving. I love to examine what is left behind, either via abandonment or death.

    Personally, Gene Smith is probably the most influential of those three on me. Although I would not necessarily list him as a big influence, I do enjoy much of what he did stylistically and aesthetically. Mary Ellen Mark I could take or leave (interesting subject matter, but not extremely photographically/visually interesting to me). Sebastio Salado I just do not care for at all, aesthetically speaking.

    When it comes to influences, I don't have many with documentary photography. My influences are more journalistic and "street" oriented. I am actually quite fond of Ansel Adams' small body of documentary work. Lee Friedlander and August Sander are two big influences, although I wouldn't say I take pix anything like Sander. I just appreciate his ability to perform such vast undertakings, while mixing the subjective and the objective quite seamlessly, and to do it all beautifully in a visual sense. If I am lucky, I can take pix 1% as good as Friedlander's.

    Why do you want to know?
     
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  3. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Thanks 2F, Gene Smith is someone I have admired for years, especially his work in Minamata. I have to disagree with you on Salgado, I feel he is the greatest living photographer. Mary Ellen Mark did some great work with her Falkland Road book.

    Adams was a great photographer but I think his portraits are lacking. Agree with you on Friedlander and especially with August Sander who might be the best portraitist ever! Many of his negatives were lost after the war, how many great images lost forever ?

    Why do I want to know? just because most of the people I know do the zone landscape thingy and I get so tired of that, I like to meet people that are interested in photographing people more than rocks (no matter how beautiful the rock is)...

    Thanks for answering my post


    Gerry
    www.gerrryyaum.com
    www.gerryyaum.blogspot.com
     
  4. Anupam Basu

    Anupam Basu Member

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    Hmm, I think I tend to do more people than rocks, but not quite portraits - mostly street style stuff.
     
  5. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    APUG has its share of the rocks and trees crowd, but I like to think I'm using some documentary techniques in my work... even though it's work that is very close to home. I don't travel the world to find my subjects... I live with them, but it's more than just snaps.

    I'm not as keen on the work of Mary Ellen Mark as I am with Gene Smith or Salgado... something about many of her pictures strikes me as almost too literal, or something. My only problem with Salgado, is that his books are so damn expensive, and poorly edited. I think he waters down his message with too many pictures. I'd rather see leaner books from him. It would pack an even greater punch for me. He is that kind of photographer who is making extraordinarily beautiful pictures of some of the world's most difficult problems.

    I like it when art and documentary photography intersect.
     
  6. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Nothing wrong with staying close to home to make your images, thats where some of the best stuff comes from...look at Sally Manns work, her photographs of her children are very complex and moving. Suzanne your work reminds me of hers.

    hmm yes his books are expensive, try to get them off amazon second hand. I just bought his book AFRICA and was spellbound looking over the images, the photographs were shot all over Africa from the 70s to present day. Sure the images are technically beautiful but I find them also deeply moving also.

    check out the links

    http://rataplas.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/sebastiao-menino-e-arvore.jpg

    http://atuleirus.weblog.com.pt/arquivo/sebastiao_salgado.jpg

    http://fivepercentjapanese.com/art/81_sebastiao_salgado_1.jpg

    http://i11.photobucket.com/albums/a159/viewfromabove/salgado.jpg

    This is one of the Africa book images..
    http://bp2.blogger.com/_J985ePibq94...1600-h/Sebastião+Salgado+-+LIVRO+ÁFRICA+1.jpg
     
  7. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Oh boy... now I'll have to add another Salgado book to my Amazon wish list...

    I admire Sally Mann's work, but I don't consider it documentary at all... do you?
     
  8. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    hmm..documenting her family? not sure how to define that word, I always thought of it as basically a recording of the human condition....and she certainly does that...I do not like her death related images (seems like there are quite a few of those) but I really like the photographs she does of her family, lots of emotion and feeling...you can see her heart.

    Bought all of her books that I could find and also Jock Sturges stuff when I first got my 8x10....to shoot Sally Mann's or Jock Sturges portraits with an 8x10 camera is quite a achievement, not sure how they managed to move that big ass camera about and still capture that kind of intimacy.
     
  9. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Perhaps I'm being a little narrow in the definition of documentary. Yes, she documented her family, but many of the pictures are set up, and work as lovely little narratives or fictions, but there's a real sense of the presence of the camera. This is not a criticism of the work at all, but I often think of documentary as being work that comes from observation, and not from illustration, for lack of a better word.

    With that said, of course, August Sander set things up, and posed his subjects, and his work feels very documentary. Even when Salgodo makes a portrait, that is clearly posed... they feel very documentary. I think there's room for both approaches... but it starts to muddy the definition of the document... or just make it a very broad umbrella!!
     
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    "...and especially with August Sander who might be the best portraitist ever!"

    ...but keep in mind that Sander was really doing typology, not portraiture. It's an entirely different concept. Portraiture tells you something about an individual, and is rarely documentary. Typology tells you something about a class or group in society, and is almost always documentary in nature. The fact that he was doing typology across all aspects of German society is what got him in trouble. He was documenting groups in society that many viewed as shameful, and documenting them in the *same exact way* he was documenting the upper classes, not placing any one group above or below any other. If he had just been taking people's personal portraits, nobody would have cared.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i document the world around me,
    people places and things. i would consider
    some of my work to be documentary in nature.
    atget, both his portraits of people and places, would
    be one of my influences.

    but aside from photographing people and sites "in context"
    some of my abstract images, both darkroom experimentation as well as the other "stuff",
    are also documentary, they RECORD an experiment that i carried out.
    while abstract imagery doesn't usually fall into journalistic documentation, it is documentary / record
    much like someone in the science field would record his/her observations.

    nice question!

    john
     
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  12. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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  13. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Yes you have a point many documentary images are observed and recorded (salgado) but I think many of the greatest documentary images of all time were set up to a degree, the one that comes immediatly to mind is Tomoko in her bath. Smith planned to do an intimate photo, knew the family and arranged to do a photo session, planned the lighting(flash and available), communicated and posed the mother and daughter etc..so a documentary image like this had a degree of set up calculation to it also.

    http://www.stephendaitergallery.com/dynamic/artwork_display.asp?ArtworkID=1910
     
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  15. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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  16. gerryyaum

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  17. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I did a lot of documentary photography in the USAF and some of it was published WW in the 60s. I continued it at Cape Canaveral, but have done none since. I just do photography now for enjoyment of my leisure hours.

    I can't say that in the heat of a hectic moment, I could really use anyone's style except what presented itself for me. You don't walk around and compose an airplane explosion!

    So, to me there are no true documentary styles. You see an important event and you make the most of it! You either get it or you do not.

    I do not consider portraits documentary in the sense of a documentary photograph unless they are virtually candid. Werner Von Braun posed in front of the first Saturn missile for a photo by one of my guys. I would not call that a Documentary Photograph. Later, when we took shots of the team in action in the blockhouse with Von Braun present, I would consider those candids documentary portraits!

    Sorry if this starts a controversy, but I've had it before with Nat Geog photographers at the Cape.

    PE
     
  18. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Had to look the word up.

    "Typology" literally means the study of types.

    I have trouble seeing the differences between the typology project and portraiture, maybe it is because I view the images individually and not part of his larger project to document all German People. I see each image as a unique document to that person not only as a grouped whole, maybe I am misreading things.

    I think when he made the photographs he wanted to show the sameness (underneath the skin) of all peoples but I think he also showed them as individuals, did he not? I get your point about the larger project and the commonality he wanted to show of the different groups but I think he also was able to show the individual. In these photos for example I see the individual more than I see the study of types.

    http://www.metmuseum.org/special/August_Sander/images/ASA3_8_1.L.jpg

    http://graememitchell.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/august_sander_brick_worker.jpg

    http://bp0.blogger.com/_5hOcwiZZtZI/R2NLStFZTCI/AAAAAAAAAJA/rGxGy_CYZTE/s1600-h/august_sander.jpg

    I see the differences in expression, in dress, in body posture, in emotion as differences which makes the images individual portraits as well as part of a larger typology project.
     
  19. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    That is a great example, Atget was a documentarian in my view and he did both people and things, never thought of that before, thanks!
     
  20. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    No do not worry about controversy, I love the exchange of ideas and am sure others do as well, were here to exchange thoughts. You bring up some valid points, posing people is a fine line I agree in regards to documentary images.

    Photographing at Cape Canaveral in the 60s must have been something, wish I could have done that. They must have placed lots of restrictions on what you could shoot.
     
  21. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    There were no restrictions on what I could shoot. I had the highest clearance in the Data and Photo Division there except for the Colonel at the head. I could grant and lift clearances and shoot anywhere or anyone. :D

    My pass stated D/F/P. This meant full access to Data Process/Film Processing/Photo. So practically I could take your camera if you didn't show a pass signed by :D me :D ! I restricted some pretty important people and put gaffers tape over unauthorized cameras rather than take them.

    In the attached photo, I am in front of the Mercury capsule testing room. Two capsules are there, one for Glenn and one for Grisson (foreground). I am with Red Williams the designer of the astronaut cameras for Mercury and Gemini. The camera in-hand is one that went into orbit.

    PE
     

    Attached Files:

  22. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    Really cool stuff to have unhindered access would have been awesome. To live there at that time must have been something, the closest I have come tp any of that is watching Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff 5 or 6 times each, not quite the same thing! : )

    If you can post some of the those images would love to see them, are they online?

    Gerry
     
  23. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    what type of cameras were on Mercury and Gemini? adapted Hasselblads? did they change film in space? that must have been fun..or did they just have special long rolls of film?
     
  24. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Gerry;

    See the photos in my gallery. Some of them were published in the newspaper. I left just as Gemini was starting.

    The first 6 astronauts used custom made cameras by Red Williams. They used 35mm or 120 film. The still cameras were derived from off-the-shelf models with extreme modificaiton for weight. Hasselblad was one model used. Some of the film in the capsule was ECN (motion picture film) so that high quality could be obtained with long latitude. These credits are made in the National Geographic article on the early shots and NG published a limited edition pamphlet on the photography which was about 50 pages long. I believe that this limited edition pamphlet is very hard to get. I think I only have one left.

    Many photos were taken on HS Ektachrome and then cross processed at ISO 400 for the high speed it gave (160 normally). In C-22, HS Ektachrome was more like 400. One of these photos was on the front page of Life magazine, taken by an NG photographer, IIRC.

    Every month, I had to box up all original footage to sent to Wright Patterson AFB for the government archives. In a brilliant move, all of this was destroyed recently, and the University of Central Florida have been trying to reconstruct photos from private (retired) individuals such as myself. I have supplied the project director there with about 100 of my personal photos and I have also contributed to the historical book "Go For Launch". Art LeBrun, co-author got many of my anecdotes and photos to supply to the author.

    But, the fact remains that early documentation of the space program was destroyed by the government.

    PE
     
  25. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    detroyed? why the hell did they do that? accident? hmm by the gov't! were they hiding something? or just ignorant of the historic value of the work?

    Thanks for the info, all of it it is very interesting. Modifiying cameras for weight must have been quite an expensive job, whatever happened to all those cameras? in some museum somewhere?
     
  26. Photo Engineer

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    The government did not realize the historical value of the work, did not have the money to keep the archives well, and ran out of storage space. So, off it went. What was there to hide? Most of it was on TV! I stood behind the ABC lead at the time, Herb Kaplow, as he narrated the live feed for the Glenn launch. "Live" is a misnomer. He was watching a tape delayed by about 30" while watching the scene live, so he appeared to be precognitive with statements like "in about 30" a guard should come out that door" and of course he had already seen that, but it would not air for 30".

    The cameras were reduced in weight by having aluminum or magnesium replace parts of the body and mechanism. And these had holes drilled in them to further reduce weight. Red had trouble with the light weight metals deteriorating during testing, so he had to make more than one camera so that one could be worn out during prelaunch tests and the other was "for real". Also, one of the big problems was designing a film advance that fit the thumb on the suit.

    The cameras went to the Smithsonian except for a 'blad that was "Lost in Space". There is a story behind Glenn's camera, but that is for another place and another time.

    PE