View Full Version : How many Documentary style photographers on APUG?

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Jose A Martinez
08-27-2008, 01:53 PM
Larry, I don't want to go further with this discussion either. I think we are talking about the same thing in the same sense. My previous post was directed to PE (I quoted his post), to point that studying the work of others, and it includes their styles, is, at least to me, not only "admirable" but necessary if you want to know what you are doing. The metaphisics of style is way out of my league.

Photo Engineer
08-27-2008, 02:12 PM
And I ageed with Jose, that my post had a glaring omission that he corrected, which I appreciate.


08-27-2008, 02:16 PM
Ah, leave it to me to run away with it! Show me something simple and I'll figure out how to complicate it!

Photo Engineer
08-27-2008, 02:34 PM
Ah, leave it to me to run away with it! Show me something simple and I'll figure out how to complicate it!


Some of my photos have been published world wide in newspapers, but under the generic USAir Force Photo. So, I'm the unknown photographer, but they are there in my gallery to see. I've suggested that several people look at them, but I have not seen the view count go up.

My philosophy has been, if it looks right, shoot it. I walked all around that Atlas pad and a team agreed, put a camera here, here, etc.... and we ran them flat out at full speed with 70mm film. Then we picked the right frames.

So, for making documents, (not portaiture) of events, just point and shoot as fast as you can and move if possible or use many cameras. :D

BTW, that was not the optimum frame. That is in the national archives and the one I have is a reject. AAMOF, I rescued it from a waste bin bound for destruction.


08-27-2008, 04:09 PM

I desperately want to see these images, but as you see I'm right now only a "member" and need to subscribe - which, unfortunately, has to take a place in line below a bunch of unexpected and fairly costly dental work! Bummer! However, if they stay there, I'll catch it down the road. Definitely interested.

70mm high speed, huh? I worked in a custom color lab back in about 1970 that did a lot of work for Boeing. I remember one series; it was of a glass of milk. Hundreds of frames, it seemed like, and they wanted a large number printed. I think the milk was sitting on a table during touch and goes, and the document meant to show the displacement with the changes in G. One thing I remember about that job was how unbelieveably boring the pix were. But document they did.

Atlas seems much more interesting, somehow.


As for the methodology, I couldn't agree more.

Photo Engineer
08-27-2008, 05:10 PM
Yes, I have one copy of the Journal of High Speed Photography yet in my library. Amazing pictures. We used to use up 1000 ft of 35mm film in about 1 minute in a camera with a gear shift. We still missed events such as liquid hydrogen explosions that we tried at 90 frames / sec (IIRC - been too long ago) but boy did that camera scream.


08-27-2008, 05:16 PM
...We used to use up 1000 ft of 35mm film in about 1 minute in a camera with a gear shift. ...

It's really amazing what this medium became. A machine like that is in itself almost a moon shot in itself. So, five forward and one reverse?

patrick parker
08-27-2008, 05:19 PM
Erich Salomon

Photo Engineer
08-27-2008, 06:07 PM
It's really amazing what this medium became. A machine like that is in itself almost a moon shot in itself. So, five forward and one reverse?

IIRC, 3 forward.

I saw one jam with estar support. It did not snap the film, it tore the teeth off the sprocket drive wheels and then began shooting film out the side. We were up to our knees in 1000 ft of film before anyone could shut it down.


df cardwell
08-27-2008, 07:18 PM
Erich Salomon

Class of his own.

Jose A Martinez
08-27-2008, 09:04 PM
Eric Solomon, of course.

Cristina García Rodero, http://www.photobolsillo.com/fotografos/cristina_garcia_rodero/cristina_garcia_rodero.htm

08-27-2008, 11:47 PM
Jose, that's great stuff. thanks.

df cardwell
08-28-2008, 08:05 AM
Jose, that's great stuff. thanks.

What bowz. said.

09-01-2008, 07:17 PM

Here is another thought. Instead of studying other's styles, go out and invent your own. I'm not sure if this has been said before, and I'm not sure I'm saying it right either, but it seems to me that before there was an "XXX" style, they had to create it and are now known for it. (For XXX substitute any name.)

In any event, studying others is admirable, but you then may end up with too much of that person's style in yours, and not enough originality.

Do your own thing, is the bottom line and if you are good, you will someday have a style others wish they had come up with.


heard various ideas regarding the style thing. One idea goes on about how everything has been done before and you cannot really create anything that's new anymore. Another line goes that you develop your own style eventually after the influences of the photographers you admire wear off.

I think you need to study other peoples work and move from there.

To ignore the work of the greats seems like the wrong line to follow in my estimation. I think your line about doing your own thing is right but I also think you need to study other peoples things!

Photo Engineer
09-01-2008, 07:28 PM

I amended that post a bit after some thoughtful suggestions by another member. To be a great artist, of course you have to study art and the great masters. I did not mean to omit that from the above quote.


Colin Corneau
09-01-2008, 07:35 PM
I find myself drawn to photographing people -- for a variety of reasons, in a variety of formats, for a variety of reasons.

I never thought if it was documentary or not, I just want to make images that matter, are relevant and aesthetically pleasing. Gerry Yaum's points above strike me as pretty well said -- study what others do, and that plus your own feelings and experiences meld together to create new images.

Kimberly Anderson
09-01-2008, 09:29 PM
I have been called all kinds of things. The phrase I'm using now is 'cultural anthropologist'. The art folks call me a photojournalist. The PJ's call me a landscape photographer. To coin a phrase..."I 'yam what I 'yam."

Here's a sample:


09-01-2008, 11:11 PM

I amended that post a bit after some thoughtful suggestions by another member. To be a great artist, of course you have to study art and the great masters. I did not mean to omit that from the above quote.


John Constable was adamantly opposed to the building of the British Museum, because he believed that students would be in there copying art that was already done, rather than drawing/painting from nature. His conviction was that nature (read surfaces which reflect light) is the real teacher, that to copy is to get it secondhand. Copying paintings in museums was a common practice in Europe (I suppose that in certain academic sectors it still is) but Constable thought that not only is that unnecessary, but that to do it is to cut oneself off from direct and authentic experience. It would be pretty hard to argue that Constable was not a pretty great painter himself and had some definite ideas about how one gets to be one.

As you may recall from above, I have little use for style and the odd notion that one ought to have one. I think that is pretty strange, and not very productive. I do study artists from the past, look at other people's work, and encourage others to do so as well. However, I do think that there is a very great tendency to emulate. That is not always a "bad" thing to do, but with certain limitations.

The difficulty that I see is that we tend to emulate without knowing we are doing so. Our ideas about what a photograph ought to be are very seldom conscious, but come from the millions of images that we each have seen and continue to see every day. We have internalized these to such an extent that we cannot distinguish them from ourselves. They are conventionalized to the extent that in the ad biz, the creative folks know that it is often effective in getting people's attention to depart from the conventions in fairly aggressive ways while preserving familiar elements. For example, fashion images that cut the model off just above the chin, or some other odd terminations. I'm sure we've each seen stuff like that. Adhering to the conventions verbatim doesn't get noticed - Calendar pix for example. Do you even see them? But how many photographers emulate them unconsciously?

It is NOT a matter of avoiding looking at the work others have done, but it is very important to develop the facility to see these things critically and use our own vision with as much awareness as we can muster. It is imperative to respond to our own vision, whether we look at the work of others or not. I think it is a great advantage to look at and to think about past work; it can inform our work. It is also imperative not to simply reproduce it except as an occasional deliberate exercise. That can be extremely useful.

It is not useful to simplify or generalize these things too much. Not everyone is the same, and we all have different ways in which we might benefit from working.

01-15-2009, 08:13 AM
I'd consider myself a documentarian. Influences: too many to mention, so I won't. Especially as I find when I mention other photographers people start trying to find references to them in my work, which is sort of missing the point. I think anyone will see the influences when they look at the pictures anyway.

The whole definition issue has always been something of a conundrum for me. My work is sometimes clearly journalistic, but I don't consider myself a photojournalist. Which category do I belong in? Fine art? I really don't know what that means. I do sell prints through galleries, so maybe I qualify there.

What the hell - I'll just go on taking pictures and let the cards fall where they may!

Cheers, Paul.

03-28-2010, 02:59 PM
I come from a newspaper background of run and gun and make the deadline. Fill The hole.
Make the Editor happy.

Clearly I was a photojournalist.

I think I still am- it is in my blood -
It is a calling - "to tell the story".

As a teenager my hero was Margret Bourke- White.

Currently I am reading Diane Arbus - A Biography.

I think it is important to keep an open mind and study the works and styles of many other artists.

I am in the planning stages of some longer term projects.

Does the fact that I am not meeting a daily deadline classify them as documentary? Probably not-

I concure, they are 2 different animals.

I will probably shoot them with the heart and soul of a pj, but not have to run and gun and make the daily deadline.

Shooting film on these projects, not digital.

Self funded- and a longer time frame to work on them-
does that make them documentary? probably not.
but others would say it does.