Monday, 23 January 2017

Reflections on the lecture regarding 'Documentary Image'; by Richard Mulhearn.

Richard opened the lecture by describing an interesting juxtaposition of ideas where the presentation of his images may  appear to be a meandering wander, and yet his presentation was in fact entitled "Stand Still"...

This is like the notion of a photographer shouting to a subject "don't move" and then later a viewer coming across an image and suggesting "you set that up". This notion of photography being the capture of the temporal moment is articulated very well by Susan Sonnestag who says that "Photography becomes interesting when it is constituted, yet static".

In this sense documentary images are the most fertile of photographic practice.

For example taking a look at the work by Gary Winnogrand and his image taken in Los Angeles, in a later period of his life post New York (where he originally came from), his work was much more querky.  No longer just taking images to sell to magazines, he was more interested 'As a student of Photography, and a Student of America' in the juxtapositions found in real life. (


 This is an observed situation, where the photographer recorded an authorial point of convergence.
Gary Winnogrand was intuitive. There is a narrative, and yet this image is very aesthetic. There is an element of commentary.
- In the extended un-cropped image above, there is a sign displaying "No left or U turn"... The woman appears to be compliant, but she also appears to have removed her shoes. What on earth is going on here? - Was the image "staged"? - Allegedly not.  This is a real life documentary evidence of a momentary event, captured forever.  Winogrand's intent was, through his photography, "To question what you 'think' you know!"

Consider also the work by Henri Cartier Bresson, "Valencia, Spain 1933" "An image can stop time"
how we intuitively see a moment in time is often replayed to a viewer who assumes that a photograph is set up. The experience and the image being connected is known as the "indexable".
This is discussed further by the work by Roland Barthe's in his book "camera lucida". The description shows that the person is present in time and space and therefore the photograph becomes indexical.

Consider the work by Alexander Gardner: the portrait of Lewis Payne. This image is amazing, this is the murderer of the President, Abraham Lincoln, after his arrest.
See the website HTTP://
the "future anterior tense" and consider it with the title "he's dead but he's going to die" (Roland Barthe's, in Batchen)

Taking the snapshot of time… Andre Bazin (the ontology of the photographic image 1960) in Wollen: 1984, page 116.

The indexicality of a photograph is apparent when it becomes an influence on our own psychology.
"The unspoken emotions of people in the room", from the work by Don Dellello "Underworld".

For further theory on these notions, take a look at the work by Michel De Certeau "Walking in the City", which describes the fascination of being in a particular place and at the same time looking at and being there to.

This relationship of photography to invent an event is of interest here. Look at the work by Gert van Kesteren, such as "Baghdad Calling" a book by this author which describes a world event, but from someone else's point of view. Gert Van Kesteren was an independent photographer who was unattached to any news company and he gave out cameras to Iraqis in order for them to take their own photographs of the war.

In this sense the photographer then becomes a "selector" instead of a "composer"
see the sequence of images by Paul Graham "American night, the hidden and the visible"

The reevaluation of the perfect image is what is being tested here. Nothing is certain.

For another extension of these ideas, look at the work by Daan Paans entitled "Rhinoceros". In this work he kind of explores and plays with the idea that Albrecht Durer once drew and made a woodcut of a rhinoceros completely from an explanation and description, given by another person and Durer never actually seen one of these creatures, yet was able to present the perfect image through the woodcut.

Further work to explore might be that of Lorenzo Vitturi, the Dalston Archive (the book) 2014.  This provides layout and design ideas based on the collusion of experience and evidence.

The work can be seen through multiple strategies such as that of Jack Latham and his "Sugar Paper Theories".  See

At this stage in photographic development as an art, we are now breaking the indexable relationship and the documentary image. In digital media there are multiple issues for photography including for example multiple layers; digital composite's; and hence authenticity.

The plausible relationship of two images being thrust together can break the old paradigms of photography and its expectations that are historical. Are the digital and the indexable opposite terms therefore?

See the work by Moira Ricci, at

How can the book engender a sense of honesty?  In Ricci's work above, she appears to be photographed in the centre of the image, next to her mother and mother's friend.  However, Ricci's mother died when Moira was quite young.  How is this possible? Is it a real photograph? - Yes it is, but what do we want to believe?

The speed of presentation of an image is now what is critical. The criteria of what is real and what is unreal is now based on an emotional engagement. For example migration.

Alternatively look at work by Mohammed Bourousissa, which looks at political contexts and motifs and strategies of moving image and studio production.

Take time out to look at the TED talk "photosynth: 2007" which can also be found on

www.HTTP://photo media photo mediations open

Or even HTTP://


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