What is Documentary?

Documentary would be, in my preconceptions, the act of story-telling, whether it be through pictures or video footage of something from ‘real-life’. However, there is also the literal translation of making a document of something.

While listening to Miranda Gavin talking about documentary being categorised, she suggests perhaps the need for new terms and language to be used when describing documentary, instead of older ones like photojournalism and reportage. One reason for this would be the new ways people are approaching documentary in order to keep their work fresh, especially as digital accessibility has become so prevalent. I agreed with Gavin that photojournalism and reportage were quite old terms when digital was relatively new and I also realised the line between art and documentary was becoming more and more blurred in photographic practice. Factors like technological advancements as well as the influx of the female gender into documentary practice contribute to this blurring. The difficulty of categorising work which falls into both art and documentary while also often being creative, as Gavin discusses, is why the different groups merge into each other a lot. Therefore I would say Gavin’s viewpoint for new terms for documentary could be an astute suggestion in an age when technology in the form of digital has made the boundaries of documentary less defined.

Although digital accessibility change is mostly positive, Gavin did raise questions about the market for documentary, where there are more documentary photographers but less editors publishing physically so if online services are utilised, making sure the photographer has some control over editorial integrity is key.


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