Documentary Photography


"Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." —Walker Evans

Photography seeking to chronicle actual events, places, and experiences in a truthful and objective manner. Historically, until the broad use of color photography, documentary photography was black and white and captured events with precise focus, limited distortions, and minimal darkroom editing, with the understanding that to manipulate was to distort the truth. It also has characteristically carried a social imperative: to expose what life is like truthfully—in cities, in poverty, in disasters—and to encourage societal progress. Accordingly, some of the best-known historical documentary photographers were also heavily involved in activist causes against poverty and child labor, such as Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. Today, more and more, questions of what constitutes a true documentary photograph arise, thanks to artists who complicate the divisions between fact and fiction (such as Jeff Wall) as well as the extensive capabilities of digital manipulation.

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