Why Documentary Photography Works
I know there are many people considering having their family photographed who have very little understanding of documentary photography. When asked to describe the genre, the first example that comes to mind involves a publication or internet news – media that contains substantial subjects that “deserve” to be photographed. Some have visions of perfectly crafted outfits on clean and rested children being guided for an hour or so through semi-staged interactions in the home they frantically tried to keep clean until the photographer arrived. None of these are documentary.
Documentary photography is defined as a type of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. The hallmarks of documentary photography images are easily noted.
Documentary images occur as they happen naturally in the subject’s environment. The goal is not to alter the environment nor ask them to repeat or change their actions or position to make a certain prearranged image. Images that produce truthful, objective and candid views into daily life are cherished for years to come.
However, just being in someone’s environment doesn’t mean their personality will be evident. Being patient and waiting for just the right moments that don’t just show what they are doing or who they are with, but the emotion and connection with their surroundings is what drives documentary photographers. Studio portraits and posed photos simply cannot capture a person’s essence.
Details are also very important as they give a window into the time and place of your subject. How a person holds a spoon, their favorite crossword, or a handwritten note all convey value, personality and give depth to the story.
Part of recording daily life includes setting the scene. Where someone spends the majority of their time says volumes about them. The kitchen, play room, garage or back yard all offer opportunities to capture genuine representations of why those places were important to the people to which they belong. Generations will cherish seeing how we lived.
Family photography can be more than perfectly dressed families in coordinating outfits smiling at the camera in a location that means little to nothing to them. This genre is about capturing the true life, raw and unfiltered. Let’s start the conversation about how I can capture your beautiful life.