Decrypting the art: Documentary photography and Photojournalism By Tswelopele Makoe

I too often hear that photography is a dying field, but photography is such a vast profession with many different roles in almost all realms of the world and our society. However photography is how we capture our reality, the image that illustrates our society and true conditions. The same way our societies evolve, our lives evolve, is the same way we see photography evolve.
Photography, you see, is a field that only develops old methods and trends and technologies, and continues to see growth (ah, behold, technology moves us once more). The development of photography has grown in realms of the world by its use of commonality and shared experience, it brings a chance of understanding to contemporary, diverse context we live in. not only is the art of photography a highly utilised one but a controversial one in its growth.
The influence of photography firstly, when we refer to history, we discuss the absence of photography, concealment and a violation to information. This is evident in the images displayed on Robben Island, an apartheid prison-turned-museum, off of the coast of Cape Town, which consist of old stories and images post-South-African-independence. Historical images are a source of manipulation, but at the same time a source of documentation and proof. These include the images taken by other nationals in South-Africa, during the time of south-African oppression, a source to expose wrong-doings and manipulation in our societies, and expose concealed brutality.
Photography’s evolution has found itself deep in cultural and social debates. On the one hand, the documentation of our cultures and contemporary context is a necessity. On the other hand, the inclusion of cultural, new-age technologies to record sacred practices has easily been deemed intrusive and disrespectful. An example of this is the debate around photographs of initiation practices in Africa and the appropriateness of leaving cultural practices open to vulnerability.
We also find photography in our personal realms: cell-phone technologies, the movement and the manipulation of images line our internet. We also find it evident in our personal world: personal pictures is the genre whereby the photography is on an individual level. Examples of this are family photos, as well as images you keep in private and in your possession.
One could go on about the different genres and how they differ, new realms of society using photography, new discoveries photography, every-changing and developing arguments around the ethics of photography; here the discussion here will be around documentary photography, and photojournalism, two different types of genres of photography.
1839 was the birth year of practical photography. It was after WW2 when Time, Life, all big magazines and publications, brought about the genre of documentary photography, instigated by Roger Fenton, the first war photographer and the originator of photojournalism. Unlike the instant-pace by which photojournalism operates, these publications were often for slow consumption and possession (opposing to a newspaper). Documentary photography refers to the image of a representation of reality. Not only this but it focuses on portraying this image in an influential way, in a way that provokes and questions individuals and discusses the condition of man. This allows these images to include a sense of fantasy, to use retouching, to enhance their focus of portrayal of the relationships or the space in the image. These such publications would consist of contents that pertained to the shared human experience and focus on universal, common approaches, the creation of an image that will portray a specific narrative. This most importantly gave life to the use of the image as a subsequent for written text, the practice of photojournalism.
In discussions of photojournalism there is the always the obvious discussion on the influence of media, but people do not really consider these images and the art or the practice of the photojournalism. This is not only because the role of photojournalism entails the production of images with a very short lifespan.
Narrative objectivity and timeliness are the three elements which best portray the image that is produced by a photojournalist. It answers the questions of who, where, when and how. Although the media is there as an informant of the stories in our society, it is not always objective. Therefore ethics of truth and credibility of sources are crucial to this realm of work.
We therefore find documentary photography as a crucial element of photojournalism. Photojournalism also captures a lived reality or event to tell a narrative. In turn, this allowed the path of the photojournalist to grow recognition as an inclusive to the field of documentary photography, but most importantly to grow recognition as artists. This redefined photojournalism as an art pertaining to expressionism and pertaining to the documenting of human existence and experiences, but most importantly to capture a narrative of a news story through single images.
It’s important to note that when we talk about genres of photography we are referring to a whole realm of different types of photography, that, when it comes to ethics of photography, all respectively hold their own values. In the field of work of a photojournalist every publication will hope a code of ethics, not only that of photographers but that of the ethics of the images that are published. This although, (for the art of photography), is dependent on the publication the images are published under and their own publication ethics as well. The ultimate standard of the ethics under a publication also pertain to what the company or publication considers to be truthful and lawful representations of the image. The lines between media ethics and photography journalism, both pertain and stand by credibility of their image. It’s easy to alter information, and it may be even easier to manipulate images, it is for this reason that the ethics around photojournalism remain a controversial issue. Ultimately, weaker ethics allow image manipulation, which is detrimental in a society whereby images are representative of serious lived realities.
Attached to this is an audio clip of my discussion with Masi Losi, the picture editor of Pretoria News. This discussion pertains not only to how the art of photojournalism is carried out, but the skills and views by which photojournalists do their job and grow in their field.
As for mentioned, the realms of society that utilize photography are vast and developing, but at the same time they have commonalities, to portray – be it a subject or scene, photography is about the illustration of a news story or a narrative captured inside a frame, really, photography is a reflection of our lived reality.


I’m always for a rant on Earl

Earl Sweatshirt.

If you don’t know him, I can’t help you. If, in fact you would like to join the legendary few who will partake in my excitement as they continue to read, be my guest:


Moving along, I came across this article on one of my favourite albums by randomblackdude, Doris (2013), and bottom line sharing is caring. \


Sunny article – Picks of the day’s share

Here’s the issue:

the same people whom are controlling the sphere of advertising, the guidelines laid down to advertising are the same prope that produce these images produce the images that define societal conceptions and standards of ‘sexiness’, as far as the standard of ‘normality’.

These people frame your entire mind. If you let them…