A British Tradition – Exercise

I have been looking at most of the work that is presented in Documentary Dilemmas and am pondering on what makes changes happen in a specific genre in the first place. It is interesting to read in the Changing Britain article how practices have changed, but also how the steering factor of who is paying for the work, the purpose of the work, its audience and the position the photographer is in, effects the final outcome of the photographic projects.

Unfortunately, I was not able to open Brett Rogers’ introduction of Documentary Dilemmas anymore, so it is a bit difficult to write about the dilemmas in particular, but the site does say that the background of the ‘renaissance’ in documentary photography is described.

The explanation of Documentary Photography talks about the changes that took place, going from a realist paradigm to work that was open to free interpretation, with a focus on the casual portrayal of people, places and artefacts, shown in an objective, distant way.

In this context it is interesting to think about the different approaches between Koudelka’s and Eskilden’s work on gypsies. It seems that the systematic recording of the subject that Eskilden did fits more in this realist paradigm. Even though Eskilden’s work is much younger than Koudelka’s, it does refer back to an earlier movement in documentary photography, while Koudelka’s work was ahead of his time.

‘Many critics claimed that the documentary impulse, which can perhaps be best defined as the systematic recording of visual reality for the purpose of providing information and encouraging understanding of the world, is inherent in the medium itself. It was this view which came to be known as the realist paradigm – the belief that a photograph represents a ‘slice of reality’ easily understood by the viewer.’

Personally, I think it is good to become aware of the differences in approaches and that there is no right or wrong here. As subjective as photography might be, there are tools to make suggestions of reality, show a certain truth or documentation.


Council, B. (2017). UNTITLED (FROM THE SERIES FRIENDLY FIRE; WEEKEND WARGAMES IN BRITAIN 1989-1994), Anna Fox | Current | Exhibitions | British Council − Visual Arts. [online] Visualarts.britishcouncil.org. Available at: http://visualarts.britishcouncil.org/exhibitions/exhibition/documentary-dilemmas-1993/object/untitled-from-the-series-friendly-fire-weekend-wargames-in-britain-1989-1994-fox-1992-p6168 [Accessed 15 Mar. 2017].


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