Week 3 notes

This weeks class had some interesting powerpoint presentations, along with discussions etc.. I have decided to blog the notes I took so that I can go over them later for inspiration.

The powerpoints in particular, were wonderful inspiration for WHY documentary photographers do what they do.. by documentary, I mean not the correspondent photographers, but personal projects.  I hope that by referring to these notes, I can be inspired with my photo essays, which at this stage, while being assessed, are personal as well, as I have been able to choose the subject.

NO SECONDS – Death Row Meals by Henry Hargreaves

This photo essay can be seen at http://www.dripbook.com/hhargreaves/portfolio/no-seconds/

Hargreaves has researched the last meals of many of the American’s who have been executed for their crimes and recreated those, with appropriate settings, ie; cutlery, tableware etc.  He has also listed the criminal and some details, the crimes for which they were executed and the contents of the meal.

These photographs are quite stark, all photographed from the same angle, straight above, with quite harsh and flat lighting, with the emphasis being on the contents of the plate, which are not unattractively styled, but not beautifully presented either.  Care has been taken to recreate the meals within the constraints of the era, using correct cutlery stules etc.

Hargreaves makes no judgement on the people who ate these meals, the chosen meals were selected because they were unusual and appealed to him, he has noted details that fascinated him, like the former KFC manager who chose that food for his last meal, is it irony, or was it included for it’s ‘creepy’ factor?

Reasons stated for this image series were firstly curiosity, how is a last meal served?? And when researched, Hargreaves could find no previous work on this subject.  He hasn’t tried to create any messages that need decoding with this series, merely to start a dialogue, and making people aware of the use of the death penalty .  He considers the negative reactions that this series has gained (comments like “cashing in”) as a measure of success, because it’s a reaction.

This series is ongoing, as it has been exhibited, and updated for that.  As he believes that food tells us about ourselves, he hopes that maybe we will discuss our last meals and what they would say about us.. perhaps to find some common ground with someone who has been put to death by their own people??

Stephen Dupont

Dupont is an Australian photographer who has captured many haunting images of conflict around the world.  He has received numerous awards for his work, and published several books of personal projects that are not conflict related as well.

Dupont works in the instant, he rarely has preparation for a shot, and will even use a blurry image as he believes it can still tell a powerful story, capturing the emotion of the moment.

Closeness is his trademark, he becomes part of the scene he is photographing and has taken harrowing images from less than a foot from the subject, although he feels very responsible for infringing someone’s personal space, and remains aware of the very fine line between documenting and invading in that sense. He frequently finds himself having to cut off emotionally in order to continue his career, but is always affected after the fact.

Dupont’s images rarely tell the whole story, they always leave the viewer asking questions and wanting to find out more.

Watching these two interviews and presentations made me aware of some important considerations in documentary photography, and the class discussed the following points.

ETHICS

  • – Intervention – do you always JUST take the photo, or do you step in.. how do you decide which?
  • – Social responsibility – which is more important, getting the story out there to the rest of the world, or doing something immediate, this relates to the above point very well.
  • Controversy VS Intention – are some images published merely because they will create a storm of controversy, is that a good enough reason to take an image?
  • Truthfulness – will an image be taken out of context and not tell the story it was intended for
  • Exploitation – should consent be gained from subjects at all times?? if you are profiting from someone’s misery, how do you reconcile that?

RESPONSIBILITIES

These relate to ethics.

Impartiality – a documentary photographer must document, not enter a conflict

Permission – ideally, get it beforehand, or at least ask afterwards

RIGHTS

Along with responsibilities, photographers have certain rights when on public ground, but it is ultimately up to the individual to check that those rights apply on location.

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