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For this assignment we were required to work in groups to give a formal presentation on early documentary. Specifically the biography and works of the following three 19th century photographers; Francis Frith, Rodger Fenton and Mathew Brady discussing three images of each photographer. These photographers were a few of the first to record history in the making. To explore and share the places they captured and the people living there. This new form of communication played a vital role in the way society viewed painting and drawing. Not only as a method for channelling material but also as a medium of visual or artistic articulation. The Rockland Community College (2007 ¶3) when discussing the history of documentary photography give the following definitions; . The Oxford Encyclopedia of photography defines documentary; “In the broadest sense, all photography not intended purely as a means of artistic expression might be considered ‘documentary’, the photograph, a visual document, of an event, place, object, or person, providing evidence of a moment in time.
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His most widespread acclaim came in 1855 with the Crimean War and becoming the official photographer for the British Museum after photographing Queen Victoria. , (see Addendum B, fig. 1) gives us a general view of the landscape and buildings. In the foreground sits the Commandant’s house, behind to the right, is the arms quay and the harbour, in the distance there is line of ships retreating. In the left corner we see the remains of the old Genoese castle which sits on the hills. Images of the war were originally intended to counteract the general unpopularity of war and occasional critical reporting (see Addendum B, fig. The images from Fenton were transformed to woodblocks and then published in which was regarded as a less critical publication This staged image illustrates the civilised, structured and almost glamorized way in which Fenton wanted to portray the war. Widely regarded as the “first iconic photograph of war” (see Addendum B, fig. This image was captured in close proximity to where the (which was made famous by Tennyson’s poem) occurred.
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3) was taken of a slave known only as Gordon after he had escaped from a Louisiana plantation. Gordon found refuge at a Union regiment camp where, before he enlisted as a soldier, he was examined by doctors who found the horrific scars on his back. The purpose of the image was to record the brutal treatment Gordon was forced to endure. After this portrait was taken it became on of the most important and powerful images used as part of the movement to abolish slavery in America. Prior to the invention of photography all events, occasions and information were illustrated by a painting medium, and although many paintings evoke an emotional response it would be severely misguided to assume that what we are being presented with is not inaccurate, fictitious, or even unashamedly deceptive. Queen Elizabeth I, for example, has had so many different paintings composed that we have no real means of truly identifying her. However, unlike paintings, the images Frith, Fenton and Brady produced could show more accurately new landscapes and record historical events. Nasreen Chothia and Darren van Tonder 1 .
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