Exercise: Photo festival and Foto8

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We had to select a body of work from a leaflet from the Hereford Photography Festival 2011 and writ a reflective commentary about it.

The work I chose was Interrogations: Big Zone, Small Zone by Donald Weber. The image I could see was fascinating, and the write up mentioned that the photographer had befriended a Ukrainian policeman and took photographs of criminals at the point of making a confession. I looked up more of the images as I was intrigued, and found images of people looking distressed and upset. There were some of people with guns to their heads. They all look really uncomfortable, which is also the feeling I had when I was looking at the images. This is usually a very private moment between the police and criminals, and to see it documented in this way made me feel like I shouldn’t be looking. Some are smoking and all are looking anxious. Knowing their lives may change for ever is also something I thought about, how this image also marked the end of their life as a free person, most are probably going to spend time in prison and things will never be the same for them and their families. I think this is a really thought-provoking body of work, and was fascinated by looking closely at more images as I found them online. It is documentary in the true sense, nothing about it is set up.

The second task was to watch a video of Jon Levy, the founder of Foto8, talking about documentary in the art gallery.

He talked about the main premise of the magazine being about storytelling, as reports rather than fictional stories. That is more about what documentary is in it’s raw form, presenting facts in the form of images. He mentioned a lot of issues that get reported on, such as political and environmental, and the fact that how different people may get involved in stories that may be close to them or in places far away. There are so many different perspectives out there and they want to show as many as possible within the gallery. This may be from people with a lot of experience or people with a little only. The intention of the photographer when they took the image is important – was it intended to tell a story or just as a piece of art?

He mentioned that some quieter stories may attract more than well known ones, something that I always like to see in galleries. He mentioned that photojournalism is sometimes perceived as the Western view of the world, but I hope that they are challenging that by presenting other views too. Since living in Asia, I have seen many other versions which challenge this. Jon also says there is no real hierarchy, it is more important how the images are shown in order to get us closer to the story.

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