My Ideas for Assignment 2 – Documentary So Far

My brief for Assignment 2 is to produce 8 single-narrative images under one theme of my choice. The only limitation on the theme choice is that it must be something that is an abstract concept. Some examples of an abstract concept would be: Hope, Love, Exploitation, Sadness, Freedom and Greed.

My initial reactions to this brief were that I could imagine producing a negative abstract concept as a theme more readily than a positive one. Although this might well be perceived as a negative reaction, my head started reeling off ideas when confronted with abstract concepts and most of them were negative… This either said something about my state of mind or, as I felt was more likely, I was better at visualising negative abstract concepts in my head as photographs.

However, some of the negative abstract concepts which soon sprung to mind were:

Loneliness, Sorrow, Unease, Separation and Confusion

In contrast the main positive abstract concept I envisaged was Happiness and I had little idea of how I would visualise that concept into 8 single image-narrative images without it being overtly obvious. For example I imagined a colour photograph (as I saw colour as a happier, more immediate medium) with people smiling but I had trouble finding non-blatant alternatives to this theme.

With the negative abstract concepts though, I was already thinking of juxtapositions where the theme could be inferred from each of the single-images.

For example with Loneliness, a single figure could be juxtaposed with the rest of the frame or instead a single figure could be juxtaposed with a group of happy people.


After thinking about the brief some more I have potentially realised a possible explanation for conceptualising the negative abstract concepts more easily. This would be based on an uneasy or negative memories/experiences and since photographs are of the past even though they are taken in the present and looked at in the future, it would make sense to pre-visualise a negative emotion of my past and find evidence of it in the present for future viewing.

This recognition of photography’s nature would offer potential viewers an insight into the world – my world – through the external; perhaps making the documentary process more subjective and modern which was one aim I wanted to achieve as I’ve gained more knowledge about the genre through the documentary course. In early documentary there was an assertion that photography could be purely objective but I would argue that very little of photography is objective and more usually it is subjective where the photographer has some role to play. Of course this is dependent on which context the photograph is viewed in but in most cases we tend to view the scene as the photographer intended or at least as the photographer framed it, thereby allowing for their interpretation of it.

If there was acknowledgement by the photographer of this before the photograph, with preconceived ideas of past memories for example, this might be reflected back in photographs of the world around the photographer in the present time. The photographer may see composition or lighting or objects/people which mean something indirectly of the past memories and could be utilised as a sort of visual metaphor for what the photographer’s state of mind was. This would differ from the already subjective approaches of social documentary photographers in the 1930s because my mood for the photographs would be preconceived. If I was to carry out such photography, then I should make sure to carry out the project in the ‘real world’ so my target audience of the general public had a better chance of identifying with my photographs.

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