Documentary photography has a distinct motive: to expose real life situations to the public (us!)

and thereby encourage concern and, hopefully, action. 


Typical themes: health issues, discriminatory working conditions, discriminatory living conditions, 

environmental problems, human rights violations


 
ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) article by Jeff Stanley

Lynsey Addario, photojournalist




Short list of famous documentary photographers

Philip Delamotte (1821-1889): disassembly of Crystal Palace 

Francis Frith (1822-1898): travel photos 

Roger Fenton (1819-1869): Crimean War battlefield landscapes 

Matthew Brady (1822-1896): American Civil War photos 

John Thomson (1837-1921): London street life photos 




Eugène Atget (1857-1927): photos of nineteenth century Paris, France 

Lewis Hine (1874-1940): photos of child labor working conditions

Erich Salomon (1886-1944): news photos 

Walker Evans (1903-1975): Depression-era photos 


Ansel Adams (1902-1984): photos of western wilderness, USA 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004): humanist photos 


Hans Namuth (1915-1990): photographic series of artists

Diane Arbus (1923-1971): photos of "freaks"


Larry Burrows (1926-1971): photo-essays of Vietnam war 

Don McCullin (b.1935): photos of individuals in war zones

Steve McCurry (b.1950): National Geographic photos


Nadav Kander (b.1961): photo series of Yangste River, China 




SHORT LIST OF DOCUMENTARY FILMS that explore how artists tell stories with pictures


1. An American Journey: In Robert Frank’s Footsteps (Ad Vitam Production, Selenium Films)

In 1958, as Swiss photographer Robert Frank traveled across the U.S., he created a series of 83 black and white 

photographs that reflected the American experience. Contemporary documentary filmmaker Philippe Séclier retraces 

the journey in this film, recapturing on digital video camera what Robert Frank captured on film.

 

2. The Mexican Suitcase (212 Berlin, Mallerich Films)

2007: three boxes arrive at the International Center of Photography from Mexico City. 

Inside? Legendary lost Spanish Civil War negatives by photographer Robert Capa. 

This film tells the story of their recovery and the power of the tragic story they told.


3. Men at Lunch (Sónta Films)

A 1932 photo of a group of construction workers enjoying their lunch break high above the New York skyline 

came to represent the story of immigrants in the U.S. during the Great Depression. 

Director Seán Ó Cualáin set himself a goal: to discover the identify of those iconic construction workers.


4. Bill Cunningham New York (First Thought Films)

For decades New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham has been passionately documenting the New York City 

fashion world. This film tells his story.


5. Chevolution (Red Envelope Entertainment)

This film examines how Cuban photographer Alberto Korda’s single shot of the revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara 

became a social and political icon.


6. Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film (Grant Hamilton)

With the advent and growing popularity of digital photography, Polaroid announced in 2008 that it would stop making 

its instant film. This documentary shares the memories and emotions of Polaroid employees and photographers during 

the final year of the Polaroid's instant film production.


7. Smash his Camera (Got The Shot Productions)

This documentary profiling controversial paparazzo Ron Galella explores the ethics of invasive paparazzi and America’s 

obsession with celebrity.


8. 5 Broken Cameras (Alegria Productions, Burnat Films, Guy DVD Films)

This film, a unique view of life and non-violent resistance in a West Bank village during Israeli Occupation, tells the 

story of a Palestinian farmer recording his life with various hand held video cameras. 


9. Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story

This biography examines the life of Bob Guccione, creator of Penthouse magazine, who stirred up a First Amendment 

uproar that eventually went to the Supreme court.


10. Objectified (Plexi Productions, Swiss Dots)

An exploration of what makes every day items so pleasing to the eye



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