Legacy Documentary for Social Change – Photo Notes

Bullet list McCausland

  • Documentary Photography is not a fashion
  • Dedicated to the profound and sober chronicling of the external world
  • Realism, scientific, uncompromising honesty
  • Fact is a thousand times more important than the photographer
  • The photographer controls the aesthetics, finds the significant truth and gives its significant form
  • Art or not is not an issue
  • Bound to realism in a complex way
  • Reality uniting before our lens, to be set down imperishably
  • Prototype of the age of realism
  • No room for opportunism or exploitation, purpose must be clear, and unified, mood simple and modest
  • Montage of photographer’s personality over his subject will defeat the aims over documentary photography
  • Objective: To widen the world we live in, acquaint with range and variety of human existence
  • Useful work, beyond claims of mere personality or clique

The idea of this article is in stark contrast with Rosler’s thinking. Rosler’s approaches documentary from the viewer’s view, in a negative way, and puts the photographer as an intermediary, in the service of its viewers, who are complacent consumers. McCausland’s viewpoint however, starts with the reality that is being photographed. She emphasises the importance of communicating this in a way that is as true to the subject as possible. The  photograph serves as an intermediary but with the task to pull viewers into the reality they are seeing, letting them expand their horizon and become connected with the subjects in the photograph.

Both school of thoughts trigger me to be aware of my role as the photographer, what is my standpoint? Do I want my style and opinion to be the dominating factor? Do I purely want to show, or also want to connect? We don’t have control over the motivations for our viewers to look at our work, but we have a certain responsibility in presenting the context in which the work is taken, shown and used.

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

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