OCA Photography Two: Documentary barry511915 Study and research

Robert Howlett’s 1857

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/jun/17/art (accessed 31/8/17)

Robert Frank’s The Americans.

https://ocaidentityandplace.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/study-and-resurch-assignment-4/ (accssed31/8/17)

http://artradarjournal.com/2016/12/05/mohamed-bourouissa-horseday-at-stedelijk-museum/ (accssed31/8/27)

Robert Flaherty: he Nanook of the north.


If you think about the time, this was filmed and the technical challenges he needed to overcome to make this film, you can only be impressed. Some say he was naive in his film making, but he made films. The Nanook of the north took two years to make, and although to overcome some of the technical difficulties he encountered, he staged some of the filmings it was done in an honest and real manner telling a true story of their lives. Flaherty was one of the first documentary storytellers. To steal a phrase, whatever we do now Flaherty did it first.

 “We have become so accustomed to television documentaries in which someone famous travels to a distant part of the world to view its inhabitants in their natural state that we have entirely forgotten where it all originated. One of the fountainheads was Robert Flaherty, an American from Michigan who was as much the great Victorian romantic as any Englishman born in the late-19th century.

Flaherty was a pioneer of the documentary, and one of those whose work sparked many of the continuing arguments about truth and falsehood within the genre. His style is now often patronised as naïve and schematic. But if you look at Nanook of the North, you can see where so much else has come from.

The filming of an Eskimo community took place over almost two years on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay, and Flaherty’s goal was complete authenticity. He wielded his gyroscope camera himself, carrying into his harsh surroundings enough equipment to process and develop the film and show it to the Eskimos. Nanook and his family were real, but the film is not a straightforward recording of their everyday life: they amiably enacted some of it for Flaherty’s cameras. But so honest and instinctive was their playing that it was undoubtedly true of a sort.

The background comes to the fore, photographed in black and white with consummate dramatic skill. Though the film has no conventional plot, it tells a coherent story through its extraordinary images. It hints at that old cliche about the noble savage being pushed towards a civilisation that will destroy him. But it does so with a rare feeling for a timeless landscape and a way of life that had remained unchanged for centuries.

The building of the igloo is perhaps the most famous and fascinating episode. It is taken step by step, without the explanation that might render it more mundane today, though the way translucent blocks of ice are used as windows could hardly seem humdrum in any hands. But again Flaherty “cheated”, since he had an igloo constructed to twice the normal size, with half of it cut away to provide more light for his camera.

When the film was released, it got rave reviews, and no one called it a documentary. It simply seemed to be in a class by itself. It still is. Flaherty was never again to achieve such lack of self-consciousness and purity of style. However, films like Moana, about the Samoan lifestyle, Man of Aran and Louisiana Story contained extraordinary sequences.

Flaherty had what was once called “an innocent eye”, which tried to discover “the elemental truths that all men share”. He was patrician, eccentric, obdurate and had the eye of a painter – the attributes of many good film-makers. He believed that if Eskimos could tame nature, then the rest of us could tame our more advanced civilisation. Perversely, Nanook of the North was made for a fur-trading firm. Perversely also, it was Nanook rather than the film-maker who became an instant celebrity.”( https://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/apr/13/19(Accessed 01/09/17)

Roger Fenton

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/aug/03/pioneer-photographer-crimean.  I have read the article above. I can see the fascination for a photographer at the time wanting to go to what probably seems to be a fascinating place, and Fenton does an excellent job of bringing the tragedy of war to the people with the limited technology of the time. The famous picture of the cannonballs on what looks like a road

Fenton’s photograph Valley of the Shadow of Death, 23 April 1855. Photograph: Royal Collection.

But judging by the caption is a valley, I could have this wrong, but I seem to remember being told that this shot was set up, or at least some think it was, for the shot to be taken or perhaps some of the cannonballs were placed in position. Even if it was a staged shot, I don’t think it matters as long as it is sending the right message out to the people that war is a brutal and should not be taken lightly by the politicians that are sat comfortably at home. I can’t say if those were Fenton’s intentions were to inform the people at home, or he had some moral compose driving him to tell the story of the suffering of the soldiers.  When I look at some of them I feel what it must have been like to be there I subconsciously am there I can step into the picture and imagine. Obviously what I am imagining is only in my head the picture is the key to the imaginary door.

W H Rivers

Rivers, Not going into all the academic achievements of riveres leading him to the study of man and in particular the sight of the  Toda people concluding that they didn’t have super visual powers as some first thought but were highly skilled in the traditions they were brought up with.  Below is an abstract from Wikipedia.

“Rivers had already formed a career in physiology and psychology. But now he moved more definitively into anthropology. He wanted a demographically small, fairly isolated people, comparable to the island societies of the Torres Strait, where he might be able to get genealogical data on each and every individual. The Todas in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, with their population then about 700 plus, suited Rivers’ criteria. And they had specific features of social organisation, such as polyandrous marriage and a bifurcation of their society into so-called moieties that had interested historical evolutionists. Whether his fieldwork was initially so single-minded is questionable, however, since at first he looked at other local communities and studied their visual perception before fixing all his attention on the Todas.

Rivers worked among the Todas for less than six months during 1901-02, communicating with his Toda informants only through interpreters and lodged in an Ootacamund hotel. Yet he assembled a stunning collection of data on the ritual and social lives of the Toda people. Almost all who have subsequently studied the Todas have been amazed at the richness and the accuracy of Rivers’ data. His book, “The Todas”, which came out in 1906, is still an outstanding contribution to Indian ethnography, “indispensable: still only to be supplemented rather than superseded”, as Murray Emeneau wrote in 1971. And it is little wonder that so famous a champion of anthropological fieldwork as Dr Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) declared Rivers to be his “patron saint of field work”.(wikipedia.org/wiki/W._H._R._Rivers)


Researching exercise five.

Lerpy’s Photography Log” According to Rosler, in America today, there aren’t any true documentary photographers practising their art.  Her premise is that documentary photography started in the early part of the twentieth century. With Lewis Hine, whom she rates highly, and Jacob Riis, whom she thinks used the work he made only to further his career and ambition. When these two made the upper and middle-classes of America aware of the atrocious living conditions of the indigenous poor and newly arrived immigrants, and those of the child labourers within American industry and agriculture.  The exposure of these practices led to the setting up of welfare departments and changing the child labour laws.  The culmination of the crusading documentary photographer apparently reached its peak with the New Deal legislation. It then slowly died, until by 1969, when the Republican party lost their stranglehold on the presidency, and the majority of the New Deal legislation was dismantled over the following decades.  From that point onward, no other photographer has dared to tackle, head-on, the government departments and industry about social ills, preferring instead to produce work that is destined for the art market, galleries or museums.

Meanwhile, Rosler says, Europe, and mainly the UK, has a tradition of two documentary paths.  Social Documentary, which she considers to be still true to the original ideals, and Documentary, which in the supporting notes is disparagingly described by a student as ‘photo’s of ballerinas’ (Rosler, 2004, p.196).  The English tradition is a little older in origin than the American, said to have been started by Henry Mayhew (1812 – 1887), social reformer, publisher and co-founder of ‘Punch Magazine’, who arranged for photographs of London’s poor and underprivileged to be made. Which he then had turned into wood-cuts for an early publication ‘Morning Chronicle’, later compiled in a book entitled ‘London Labour and the London Poor”.

It’s difficult not to agree with some of the assertions Rosler makes about the uses and purposes that documentary photography was, and is, used for.  In the earliest work, she sees that by making the upper and middle-classes aware of the situation of the poor, where the perceived danger posed. Increasing militancy within their ranks, to the social order the middle-classes dominated. Requiring them to help ameliorate the situation with charity lest they allow the revolution to wash them away.  Today, the practice in the U.S.A., she sees as photographers perpetuating the status of art for the middle class, increasing status and nothing at all to do with social change, and everything to do with the accumulation of wealth and prestige for the artist, gallery or museum.

One argument she poses about exploitation does touch a nerve with anyone who, like me, is attempting to make a social documentary.  The case of Dorothea Lange and the ‘Migrant Mother’ photograph is a case in point.  Lange herself wrote in her field notes that the woman, now universally recognised as Florence Thompson, agreed to the series of images being made in the belief that if she, Thompson, helped Lange, then what Lange was doing would help her.  It later became apparent that Thompson really expected some direct help, whereas Lange took the bargain to mean help everyone in Thompson’s situation!  Clearly a massive misunderstanding which left Mrs Thompson very bitter in later years and wishing she hadn’t agreed to the photograph being made.  Whilst those of us who practice this form of art do so with the intention of ‘making a difference’, we have to be very careful that we don’t overstep the boundaries of propriety in an attempt to get an image that leaves the subject feeling exploited or used, so that we have a prize-winning image.  This must be a tough thing to accomplish when trying to make a living from social documentary photography (the exploitative model could make the whole series much more saleable) especially when one moves from story to story without any personal involvement in the issue we’re covering. I also wonder if it’s possible to actually make a living off social documentary on its own?”(accessed 19/09/17 https://lerpysphotographylogs.wordpress.com/in-around-and-afterthoughts-on-docum.)

Assignment Two Study and research

Reading the magazine Photo8( OCA core resources accessed 10/10/17)

OCA Core resources campany_billbrandt.pdf (accessed 16/10/17)

Karen Knorr

I can’t really comment on the work of Knorr’s, but the work I have seen so far seems a little gimmicky. From what I have seen on the site below, I am finding it hard to discover what she is trying to say.

http://karenknorr.com/photography/the-lanesborough/(accessed 29/10/17)


Paul Seawright’s work as a different approach to what we would call the norm when photographing Africa, the starving children the orphanages run by nuns and warring tribes are gone.


Now we have people that have moved from the countryside into the city’s looking for a better way of life, but the influx of people is on a vast scale, so vast shantytowns have built upon the outskirts of the city’s that threaten the political stability the ruling body’s

The infrastructure of the towns is struggling to cope. The picture above shows a man in a shop that looks like a print shop.

My interpretation of what is going on in the shot is this, he is having a rest in the midday heat he can’t afford to go home and rest because he could miss a customer. There is no evidence it would be better at home, so he waits for that customer that are few and far between, he is struggling in his business

I say this because the paint is peeling on the walls he buys the paper to print on in small batches. The lethargic presentation of the shop shows that he has little interest. The small amount of money he makes from the shop is bearly enough to feed him, let alone his family.

Paul Seawright’s work is showing a city struggling to come to terms with the influx of people. I think the Shot above is a representation of the African cities as a whole; it is how I imagined it to be before I viewed the shots. People living on the edge using their wits to survive. There must be the other side of the coin to this work the rich or people that have a lot more than the rest.


Website title: Demilked.com
URL: https://www.demilked.com/magazine/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/drone-photos-inequality-south-africa-johnny-miller-2.jpg

Accessed 28/10/17


Anders Petersen

“Petersen was born on 3 May 1944 in Solna, Sweden. He studied photography under Christer Strömholm in Sweden from 1966[1] to 1967. He is noted for his intimate and personal documentary-style black-and-white photographs.[1]

For three years beginning in 1967, he photographed the late-night regulars (prostitutes, transvestites, drunks, lovers and drug addicts) in Café Lehmitz, a bar in Hamburg, Germany. The resulting photobook was first published in 1978 by Schirmer/Mosel in Germany. Café Lehmitz has since become regarded as a seminal book in the history of European photography.[2] One of the photographs from this series was used as the cover art for Tom Waits‘ album Rain Dogs.[3]

Petersen’s first book Gröna Lund (Green Grove), which was published in 1973, is set in the amusement park of Gröna Lund situated on an island.

In 1970 Petersen co-founded SAFTRA, the Stockholm group of photographers, with Kenneth Gustavsson. At the same time, he taught at Christer Strömholm’s school. He has been director of the Göteborg School of Photography and Film.[4] He began to photograph for magazines and continued his personal photo diary work, which continues to this day. He has photographed for extensive periods of time in prisons, mental asylums, and elderly care homes.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Petersen_(photographer)) (accssed30/10/17)







Peter Dench




https://www.lensculture.com/articles/peter-dench-drinking-of-england#slideshow (accessed 30/10/17)

Annie Leibovitz

I have been looking at the work of Leibovitz through watching documentaries on youtube. She has given her life to photography in the seventy’s going on tour with the Rolling Stones. She was given an exhibition by the International centre of photography and is the only living photographer to have been given that oner with the exception of Ervin Penn. She moved on to Vanity fair in the eighty’s, and her portraits of John Lennon and the nude pregnant Demi Moor have been described as Icons of our time Portraits have helped define the look of American popular culture over the last twenty years.

When she was asked to go on tour as the Roling Stones photographer, she stayed for the full tour after a while she couldn’t take any more images the group so she turned her attention to the audience and in some ways, these are the most powerful

John Lennon was shot just a few hours after this shot was taken.

Bill Brant

In the 1930 Bill Brant travelled to the north of England to photograph the workers, working and living in poor conditions. The photographs are today still celebrated by up and coming photographers and students. Below is one of Brant’s most celebrated Photographs. The miner having his tea with his wife looking on, still dirty from the pit, showing the poor conditions that they lived in at the time. The miner looks very tired and his wife looks ready for bed as well, but this image was set up Brant thought of himself as an artist and wanted to show the conditions in the most realistic way, this is what he as done.