Photography and Evidence

Conflicting Perspectives

  • What’s my perspective?
  • What do I see it as?
  • Where is my perspective?
  • Do I have the whole picture?
  • What am I bringing to the table?


Cartier Bresson

  • Believes you shouldn’t edit photographs
  • ‘what you see is what you get’


Don McCullin

  • Biafra 1971
  • Biafra no longer exists, it lost the war and got absorbed
  • Don McCullin proved that things were as bad as people in the country were saying


Kevin Carter

  • Pulitzer Prize winning image 1994
  • Killed himself afterwards
  • Carter believed it was not his place to intervene, but to observe


W Eugene Smith

  • Believes that it doesn’t matter if you get slightly involved.
  • Set certain scenes up to an extent
  • thruthful, but he believes the essence of the photograph
  • Tomoko in the bath 1971: banned
  • Horrors of fetal mercury poisoning
  • Became a symbol rather than a reality
  • Family asked for image not to be used because audience forgot that they were real people in the image


Photography as a Witness

  • If it illustrates a point, does it actually miss the point
  • Compassion fatigue: we see so much horror that we don’t react to it


Paul Hanson

  • World press photo award winner 2013
  • Emotionally evocative
  • Despite it winning an award people questioned authenticity because it looked to professional
  • Argument was that, he laid different images over each other to get everything right
  • People argued that because of the editing it was no longer a truth


What then is truth?


Russian History of Rewriting History/ evidence


You can edit


If we won’t trust images if they look to good, what can we trust?



Iraq War: Prisoners of War being tortured by American Soldiers

  • May 2004
  • Our biggest threat, as image-makers are amateur photographers – Ritchin
  • People trust an amateur photograph more than a professional photograph


If you are watching something intently, do you really see the big picture?


Photography and Death

How do you show death in photography


Indiana USA, 1930

  • Two black men being hung
  • People come out to see it
  • It got distributed as a postcard


Photography and Death

  • Photographing death was the last taboo
  • Everything is photographed now
  • We actually had a better relationship with death in Victorian Times than now.
  • Not uncommon back then for there to be dead loved ones in your photo albums


Briony Campbell

  • ‘The dad project’ 2009
  • Dad died of cancer, wanted a way to make that experience real of that happening real.
  • ‘Attempt to say goodbye to my dad’
  • How do you memorialize and make sense of death today
  • Attempt to make sense of death


Andres Serrano

  • Mortuary photographs
  • Looking at uncomfortable subjects and beautiful images
  • Named the photographs by how the people died.


Doesn’t matter what you are photographing, matters how you deal with it. Be respectful.


In Your Research Groups


Each of you take a subject


Add to your shared resource (google doc) by adding a paragraph on the following photographic movements


  •  Mass observation photography
  • New Topographics
  • Farm Security Administration Photography
  • Objective Style Photography from the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie


References and Further Reading


  • Barthes R 1980 Authentication (85-89) in Camera Lucida Vintage classics
  • Linkman A 2011 Photography and Death Exposures
  • Olin m 2013 five stories OF 9/11 IN touching photographs Chicago Press
  • Ritchen F 2013 Bending the frame aperture
  • Sontag S 2003 Regarding the pain of others, Penguin Books