Documentary photography: Capturing life, Vol. 14 - 2007, No. 3
Under apartheid, activist and commercial photographers confronted violent, traumatic events, and their exposure of these to the wider world played a key role in bringing about the downfall of the state. Post-apartheid, documentary photography has generally taken a diff erent direction, orienting attention to the surrounding society, and making good on all manner of missed experiences. In their move to peripheral situations, photographers dignify the culture-making of ordinary folk. The persons in the photographer’s gaze are frequently those caught in the shock waves of hostilities (Guy Tillim), affl icted by a dread epidemic (Kim Lubdrook), or exposed to a diff use condition of endangerment, like violent criminality (David Southwood). Photographers are themselves in a way fatally endangered from afar and their attempts to visualise what is out of frame can be seen as a form of self-defence and passionate search in a bid to come to terms with trouble. The essay probes the post-apartheid state of documentary photography and its current directions.
Photography in modern China through case studies of photographers and their work in diff erent periods of history. It argues that technological potential, social conditions and cultural values work together to enable and condition the development of specifi c styles of photography. The coming of age of documentary photography as an independent way of observing society and intervening in social change in China is the result of overcoming three institutional infl uences of art: propaganda, aestheticism and commercialism. The future development of this art form depends on its continued negotiation with these three institutional forces and its ability to remain relevant to social processes.
This essay provides a contextualised account of social documentary photography in Taiwan during the second half of the 1980s and a critical review of Ren Jian magazine within a case study of Guan Xiao-rong’s Dignity and Humiliation. The latter emerges as an exemplary documentary work on the socio-political issues of an ethnic group of indigenous Taiwanese. The essay suggests that Guan’s mixed position of documentary photographer and campaign activist made his photographs a distinctive and rare humanistic contribution with a politicised dimension.
Based on the photographs of Ki-chan Kim, this essay examines how the tradition of documentary photography in Korea evolved in terms of subject, style, and ways of seeing. It emerged as a humanistic response to the harsh social reality of the 1940s in an oppressive political atmosphere for photographers dealing with socially sensitive subjects. Hence, a compromise between roles of the arts and social muckraking characterised the evolving documentary tradition. In documenting the back streets of Seoul, Kim tends to reduce a subject with broad social implications to an introspective story of personal memory, thus representing the Korean documentary tradition.
The essay focuses on the work of two German photographers, Augusto Stahl and Revert Henrique Klumb, whose work predates the journalistic genre of photojournalism in nineteenth century Brazil. The author proposes the use of a Foucaultian archaeology as a method of exploring and analysing the contributions of these photographers to the journalistic discourse, and to reporting in particular.