A Photo Teacher |

Witness in Our Time – Working Lives of Documentary Photographers

Posted in PHOT 267 by Paul Turounet on February 6, 2008



Documentary photographers explore crucial issues and events of our time. Building on the traditions and passions of their predecessors, they are devising new strategies to address obstacles and opportunities created by rapid media changes and intensified cross-cultural contact. Discussing how documentary photographs are created and distributed, Witness in Our Time provides an insider’s view of a profession that continues to confront questions of art and truth while extending the definitions of both.

– from backcover description of Witness in Our Time : Working Lives of Documentary Photographers written by Ken Light


For the photographer interested in engaging documentary practice, it is essential and necessary to consider the work and process of fellow photographers. Reflecting on how others have determined their subject matter and working process provides for not only a sense of historical context, but most importantly, insight into how to consider the critical issues necessary for engaging in documentary practice including how to approach subject matter, the role and function of documentary photographs and how to sustain an extended project.

Ken Light is an internationally recognized documentary photographer and the recipient of two National Endowment for Arts grants. He has developed and explored a variety socially-conscious projects which have resulted in the publication of six books, including Coal Hollow, Texas Death Row, To The Promised Land and With These Hands. He is currently an adjunct professor and curator of the Center for Photography at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC – Berkeley. I had the pleasure to not only study documentary photography with Ken, but also be involved in printing of the work for Delta Time.



For each of the required critical issues responses assigned from Witness in Our Time – Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, identify the photographer you read and address the following questions:

What are the photographer’s thoughts/views/beliefs on the role and function of documentary photography for themselves and/or in general?

How has the documentary photographer identified/developed their subject matter and what is their working process for engaging their subject (how they initiate and sustain the project, their approach, their considerations of tools and materials)? With the editor/curator, what are their thoughts on how a documentary photographer develops their subject matter and the necessary working process for sustained work?

What insight and/or advice does the photographer/editor/curator have to offer to those interested in working in documentary photography?

Click on the links below for website / information on each of the photographers:

Hansel Mieth, Walter Rosenblum, Peter Magubane, Matt Herron, Earl Dotter

Mary Ellen Mark, Eugene Richards, Susan Meiselas, Graciela Iturbide, Antonin Kratochvil

Donna Ferrato, Joseph Rodriguez, Dayanita Singh, Fazal Sheikh



Please complete the following (see Calendar for Due Date):

Write a critical review (minimum 2 – 3 paragraphs) to be completed by the due dates on course calendar. The review can be submitted in the Comments section below or typed-up and turned-in.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: