Media and Documentary Assessment 3 – final draft



From commencement of this assignment, my chosen publication has been The Big Issue. After researching their ethics and publishing guidelines and purchasing several issues, I believe it is an ideal fit for my essay.

The Big Issue is not political, the issue referred to in their title is that of homelessness, and their mission revolves around helping those marginalized by it.  The magazine has no political agenda, and as I had decided not to use a political slant to my story, I felt that they would most appreciate the other viewpoints offered, including aging Australians keeping active and social, which is a very current topic, but not a politicized one as yet.

While I believe that some of my images may have been better appreciated by the magazine in colour format, I feel that they will understand that monochrome does give them a timeless quality and appeal that will blend with any words they choose to use.  Another method that I employed to help improve my chances was to ensure that several images had enough negative space for a title, or perhaps even extra text and a title on the cover page.

After making these choices, I had to consider what equipment would be needed to get the quality and style of images I wanted.

Fortunately, having great access to, fellow motorcycle riders, meant that if my own equipment didn’t provide me with the images I desired, I could arrange to hire more suitable equipment and retake them.  I started shooting images very early on in the assignment to ensure that I had the time to allow for this eventuality.

Fortunately, my equipment was up to the task, as I am very fortunate in owning a comprehensive kit with three bodies and several quality lenses of varying focal lengths, along with a good tripod and flash unit.

I found that my full frame body provided me with the best images, this was hardly surprising, most of my quality lenses were purchased with that body in mind.  The two lenses that did most of the work for this assignment were my 70-200 f2.8 and my 24-70 f2.8.  I did take a small number of images for special effects with an 8mm fisheye, and eventually used one of these images in the final presentation, for it’s effective point of view.  Despite taking several experimental images with my iPhone whilst riding, I decided not to use them in the final presentation, although I was quite impressed with their quality.

Every image that I used in the final presentation was shot with natural light, and this is where my 5DII came to the fore, excelling at taking interior images at high ISO and clear images through car windscreens and other less than optimum conditions.  I felt very justified in making the decision to upgrade to this body, it has yet to let me down for any assignment.

I do regret not having purchased a Neutral Density or Polarizing filter for my lenses, but I didn’t allow for that expense, or for the non-availability of those filters in large sizes.  I have since ordered them, and look forward to extending the capabilities of my lenses with them in the future.  I was grateful that the quality of my images meant that post production was limited to cropping and conversion to a suitable monochrome for the mood that I wished to convey.

One of the great benefits of choosing a subject close to my heart was that I already knew many of the people who would be the subjects.  By getting to know them beforehand, I could make an educated list of images that I wished to capture and easily ask for co-operation.  Of course, as my assignment progressed, my shot list changed frequently (as I blogged about several times), but each time, my fellow riders were very accommodating.

I was also introduced as a student photographer to many motorcyclists, and that went a long way into gaining acceptance for any  other shots that I desired.  I was very careful not to impose and to make sure that all people featured in my shots were given access to both prints and digital copies of images that featured them, and to give the various clubs digital copies for reproduction in their newsletters and archives.  I learnt a lot about being accepted by strangers and how to approach them on an individual basis, something that I was quite uncomfortable with before undertaking this assignment.

While I approached this assignment with one point of view, my research and experience led me to adopt a different approach, and I learnt a lot about flexibility and making sure that I took any opportunity to capture images that could have more than one context, as I could see the changes unfolding almost every time I took any images.

This experience also taught me a lot about different ways of using my equipment, and stretched my knowledge of all areas of my ability, I tried techniques and used settings that I had never before entertained, including a lot of manual focus to get just the right look for the images that I was after.  I also added a couple of things to my kit wish list (is it normal to have a never ending wish list???).

I really enjoyed the challenge of this assignment, a lot more than I expected going into it, and I am quite proud of the images that I produced along the way, even the ones that didn’t quite fit the theme I had in mind.  I have learnt how to express an emotion through a shot that doesn’t involve faces, how to tell an entire story with just a few images and how to create edit images for maximum emotional impact.  I would love the chance to continue this series and make it a lot more in depth.  However, I feel that this would require a much longer time frame, given the weather dependability of my chosen subject, and would complete it, like this one, as a freelancer before submitting.


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

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.


  • – 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?


These relate to ethics.

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

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


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.