Journalism and documentary, bad words

Discussion in 'Journalism and Documentary' started by Jose A Martinez, May 22, 2008.

  1. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    In February I had the oportunity of chat with Mary Ellen Mark and a group of fellow photographers over dinner and I told them that two photo galleries in Chicago didn't bother to see my work when I say that I do documentary photography, and Mary Ellen said that it's worst when you present yourself as photojournalist. We conclude that in the today's art world, journalism and documentary are bad words.

    What you think?, any experience?, any thoghts?
     
  2. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There has always been tension between fine art photographers and photojournalists. They seem to resent, and each other's work... dismiss it... on both sides. I think this weakens photography, creates "ghettos" of photographers bad mouthing each other.

    Do novelists, poets and journalists have such hostilities toward each other? Why should photographers?

    FWIW, Jose, I think your work would be powerful on a gallery or museum wall, and I hope someday to see it in that context. (As well as the printed page... )
     
  3. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Its because they usually have different goals:
    fine art photographers usually care about aesthetically pleasing but "useless" photographs where photojournalists care about capturing the news rarely really caring about aesthetics. Unfortunately its not the fault of the photographers themselves, but of the market.
    Fine Art collectors usually don't want something tied to an event, unless it has some historic value. New agencies care only about how well a photo would illustrate an event. Very few photographers care about combining both, for example the Magnum Photo agency and photographers such as Sebastiao Salgado. There is a reason the agency is by invite-only and Salgado is often critised for "beautifying" misery and ugly events.
    My belief is that a good photographer will make good photographs even in a war zone or where speed matters, sometimes even standing by themselves as great pieces of art. Most of classic photography is actually documentary, but where aesthetics and art takes a mere historical event even further.
    As a journalist, I am often in a hurry to find photos to accompany the stories I write and its not unusual to prefer a "boring" snapshot that illustrates the text better than a good artistic one.

    But its a large and good subject and would like to read more opinions.
     
  4. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    Thanks Suzanne, I'm working on it. I've been shown in museums and cultural centers, and a Mexico city's gallery represents me, they gave an exhibition last September. About publication, I was rejected by one of the most important foundations in the country two days ago. Even though, I'm confident that I'll publish in the near future. I'm certain that my work is more for a book than other means.
     
  5. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Galleries are businesses, first. If your style doesn't match what makes money for them, they will not take a risk.

    This doesn't mean your images do not have a market. The business of sell photography is taking the time to find the correct match between your images and the gallery's clientele.

    Just because you've heard 'no' does not mean that's the final answer. Hang in there.
     
  6. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Try to get a job at Time Magazine describing yourself as a "surrealist"

    I'm not sure wat the problem here is
     
  7. Moopheus

    Moopheus Subscriber

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    No, but "commercial" and "literary" writers sometimes do. And, yeah, it's all about preserving ghetto boundaries, not about quality (or even money, sometimes).
     
  8. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  9. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I think the proper term for Time is "Corporate Propaganda Illustrator",
    Photojournalism having gone out of favor. And for galleries,
    well, they've never been comfortable with living PJs because they
    are usually unkempt and aren't easy to manage.

    But then you aren't doing Documentary for the Galleries, are you ?
     
  10. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    of course not, I'm doing it because I love to. But I love to sell too. I love to be shown. And I think that what I'm doing could be "hang" in a gallery. The first living photographer that have a show in MOMA was Diane Arbus :wink:
     
  11. lns

    lns Member

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    Actually Walker Evans had a show at MOMA in 1933. And I know Henri Cartier-Bresson showed there after the war. There were a lot of photography shows at MOMA before Arbus.

    Some consider Evans and HCB to be documentary photographers.

    So it looks like you have a good shot at MOMA. :smile:


    -Laura
     
  12. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Keep at it Jose,
    they'll come around.
     
  13. Ray Heath

    Ray Heath Member

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    g'day Jose

    well, from my limited experience i'd say the galleries need to sell to survive, would your work sell?

    anyway, these are extremely strong images, to view your site is to be confronted with aspects of life most of us would rather ignore, your images are way powerful and possibly upsetting

    i was moved, amazed, humbled and awestruck, in short, i experienced examples of great art

    Ray
     
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  15. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    Thank you all for your kind comments.
     
  16. Tim Boehm

    Tim Boehm Subscriber

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    Sebastião Salgado is considered one of the most important photographers today.

    Some of his images are shown here:
    http://www.pdngallery.com/legends/legends10/

    Follow the "BIO" link from where I quote:

    "What I want in my pictures is not that they'll look like art objects...They are journalist pictures. All my pictures. No exceptions."

    You need to be tenacious.
     
  17. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    of course I'll be... the Salgado's remark amuse me, you know, his work has been criticized because it looks like fashion shots and not photojournalistic... as far as I know Weege was the first real photojournalist that considered his own work as art objects, and I like the Weege's view rather than Salgado's...
     
  18. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    same old, same old

    look up "Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present" and poke "Abbott" in the search term. Start reading from 203
     
  19. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    I found the book and I bought it... as soon as I have it I'll go to page 203. Ahh! Berenice Abbott, great advocate of photojournalism...
     
  20. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    Suddenly I remember that I have the book "A guide to better photography" by Berenice Abbott, published in 1941, in my library, and that she dedicated a chapter to Documentary Photography, p. 163. So I went to the reading...

    ...She quotes, among others, Beaumont Newhall "It is important to bear in mind that 'documentary' is an approach rather than an end... He (the photographer) will put into his camera studies something of the emotion he feels toward the problem, for he realizes that this is the most effective way to teach the public he is addressing. After all, is not the root meaning of the word 'document' (docere, 'to teach')?"

    Question, if it's possible 'to teach' with some grace, some art?
     
  21. Tim Boehm

    Tim Boehm Subscriber

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    Jose,

    The point I made is that Salgado is a photojournalist and has plenty of gallery representation. Anyone who wants to promote himself in any field of endeavor needs tenacity. Your preference for Weege is, of course, your prerogative, but irrelevant to this discussion. I suspect some of the early photographers, like those in the civil war era, considered their works as art. They were photojournalists. However, I really don’t want to discuss “art;” it’s an endless, non-resolvable argument. Good luck with your career.
     
  22. Jose A Martinez

    Jose A Martinez Member

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    Tim, I get your point, and I totally agree with you. This discusion is not about "art" or how famous photographers express about their work.

    On the other hand, I repeat and also agree with you, I'll be tenacious, there is no other way to succeed. :wink:
     
  23. dperez

    dperez Member

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    Jose,

    In the short period that I have been on APUG I have been awestruck by the talent to which I am exposed. I believe your work is emotionally charged and should be shown.

    I think you are right that there is a reluctance to show documentary photographers at galleries. I recall an interview of Steve McCurry where he dismissed the notion that his photographs were art. But in any event whether somebody considers documentary work to be art or not, I think some photographers have the ability to transcend time, and when an image can stand alone like that for years and still have an emotional resonance, then I think it’s worth studying and worth being exhibited.

    That’s my two cents from a novice. I am already glad I discovered this forum. Thanks for sharing you work and contributing your thoughts.

    -DP
     
  24. DanielOB

    DanielOB Member

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    Photojournalism is dead a long ago. It is shifted to digital imaging (or if you like digital media...) and not so far from advertising (even the same with war journalism). Man, it is dead for ever and ever. At very end photography is not invented with mind around such thinks.

    Daniel OB
    www.Leica-R.com
     
  25. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    some pretty heady company! if you get in Jose
     
  26. gerryyaum

    gerryyaum Subscriber

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    What I have found in all my rejection letters from galleries is a bit of inspiration to work harder, at first it feels like shit, like you got kicked in the balls but later on you just think THEIR WRONG I AM RIGHT and work harder!

    Photojournalism/documentary photography in my opinion is the highest and most important type of photography so keep to your guns Jose!! I know I will!!

    Gerry
    www.gerryaum.com
    www.gerryyaum.blogspot.com