I watched a documentary on Richard Avedon a few years ago and remember that I was really impressed with his work and ideas behind his practice. It seemed to me that he was able to tap into a deeper layer of humanity, going beyond the social economical status and background and establish a recognition between the viewer and subject that would enhance equality and understanding. Interesting how an article like this can overview these thoughts and show me that there are always more sides to ones initial ideas and convictions.
Bolton explains how in modern day’s information economy poverty and its conflicting realities and opinions have been taken out of sight and elaborates by using Avedon’s ‘In the American West’ as an example of how cooperations have occupied the independent, critical space that used to be art. The ambiguity of representing ‘the truth’ completely out of its context and using it in a commercial, uncritical setting raise questions on what defines documentary photography, when it sides to voyeurism and exploitation or is used for a wider understanding and empathy towards people who live in different circumstances.
Bolton says it’s bad faith in much documentary: Claims about the value of self expression obscure the manner in which relations of power inform representation, the way the privileged represent the reality of an other class.
However, I wonder if it’s just a matter of class differences, thinking about Martin Parr’s work, I think you could say almost the same about how he shows a certain group of people and exploits them. I think it has more to do with the problem of ‘motive and responsibility‘ that Bolton describes.