The definition of documentary style photography is that ‘Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. It is typically covered in professional photojournalism, or real life reportage, but it may also be an amateur, artistic, or academic pursuit.’
Documentary photography to me is a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage. Until the mid-twentieth century, documentary photography was a vital way of bearing witness to world events: from shoot-from-the-hip photographs of the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa to the considered portraits of poor farmers by Dorothea Lange, am image from this series is shown on the right in full bleed. Social documentary photography is a different style all together, During this period the tradition of documentary photography was reinvented. Artists began to see the camera as a tool for social change, using it to shed light on injustice, inequality and the sidelined aspects of society. However, social documentary photography is often a subjective art and not all photographers in this category intend their images to aid the bettering of society. Lisette Model’s who is a portrait photographer used close-up views of people on the streets of Paris, New York and the French Riviera were often taken without the subjects’ awareness or permission her work will be shown later on in my sketchbook. From 1949 onwards, Robert Frank started to take pictures which reflected his search for artistic freedom, shooting stories which revolutionised the expressive potential of the medium.
Lisette Model was born in Vienna, where Model originally studied music specialising in piano and compositional theory where she then decided to move to Paris. She discontinued her musical career in 1933, and discovered photography through her sister Olga and her friend Rogi André. She decided to become a full-time photographer soon after this and in 1937, served a short apprenticeship with Florence Henri. The next year, she and her husband, the painter Evsa Model, immigrated to New York City, where she came into contact with important figures in the photographic community, such as Alexey Brodovitch and Beaumont Newhall. Her photographs were very successful and appeared regularly in Harper’s Bazaar, Cue, and PM Weekly. Model’s best-known work consists of series of photographs she made with a 35-millimeter camera, of people on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. Her work is notable for its emphasis on the peculiarities of average people in everyday situations, and for its direct, honest portrayal of modern life and its effect on human character. As one of the most influential street photographers of the 1940s, Model redefined the concept of documentary photography in America, and through her roles of teacher and lecturer she shaped the direction of postwar photography. Like many other documentary style photographers her past history and where Model grew up I believe effected her style of photography, her approach is a lot less abrasive than some other photographers. Her black and white images on a 35mm are soft and delicate capturing a range of colours and emotions within one image. I would like to use some of these techniques within my own work, from the soft closed eyes of the female subject showing a variation of light and shade on the face. I will experiment with a 35mm in my work and see how I like the noise on the image, I think that a 400 film would be better for a portrait as it gives of a grain that most film photographers prefer. Model was an inspiration to my work and I know will be a vital starting point for me approaching people to take their portrait.