HomePhotography TipsThe notion of Documentary Photography: Features and purpose

The notion of Documentary Photography: Features and purpose


The Introduction

It is the process of gluing different elements together to come up with a relationship between elements in a way that a moral is made out of it. However, in the end, its purpose remains the same in that it defines the elements of a subject that create it.

The purpose of the photographer is to convey a message to the audience through the work. If the viewer receives the wrong meaning of the work, the purpose of the work is lost.

When the different elements are being viewed by the audience, they individually tend to comprehend what they are seeing to give meaning to it. And this is why a single photograph might hold different meanings to different individuals.

The artist tries to be in the same line as the viewer so that he or she is able to get the message (without much explanation) the artist was trying to put forth. And this is simply documentary photography.

The concept

Documentary photography is a type of photography that focuses on issues surrounding us and affecting us. It seeks to advance specific causes in society for recognition of the suffering of victims.

It is recording human beings in their natural and raw settings in their trust form that may not be the best setting for human beings for surviving.

The earliest form of documentary photography was a series of pictures that depicted the poor conditions of the working class in expanding industrial areas, not to mention all the occupational hazards they could catch. The camera is supposed to capture the reality

The features

The features include the theme, the subject, the objects, and the composition. The subject and object is the feature of all the various types of photography.

Even the same can be said for the theme, although documentary photography makes use of serious and likely unrecognized themes. Composition is something new and a very crucial element in documentary photography. What liquidity is to soup is composition to documentary photography.
The composition

Just like in cooking where you need to add oil, spices, salt, vegetables, and water in the right amount and right order to make tasty food. Composition is positioning all the objects near the subject so that they complement it and each other while never being distracting. It demands perspective, to use hidden elements as the pallbearers supporting your idea. You can also use symbolism.

The theme

The theme is often something forbidden, social issues or adversity of the masses or an individual. Today photographers usually go for issues that affect many people. Covid Pandemic made the most recent theme for documentary photography. The Great Depression and War are other examples.

Then there are photographers that focus on the life of underprivileged people. Whatever theme it may be, the photographers make sure that it questions the morale of the people and revolutionizes the idea.

The emotion

Documentary photography demands emotional attention from the audience. They want the audience to feel the pain, trauma, hardship, and atrocities the subject is going through depicted in the photograph.

The Pros

Documentary photography has brought recognition and national attention to previously ignored issues.

The Cons

Since documentary photography seeks attention from the masses, it can be used for fake propaganda to gain benefits that can be political, social, or economic. So then they had to go through debate and critical analysis.
The notables

Some contemporary artists are Steve McCurry, Fazal Sheik, and Pieter Hugo, Here are the names of the earliest known professional photographers in documentary photography Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis, Timothy O’Sullivan, and John Beasley Greene.

The Conclusion

Many people know film documentaries, they can even name some latest Netflix documentaries.

This genre of movies has become very famous and has become a weapon to bring change around the world. It is just because of advancements in the documentary photograph and the evolution of the art as technology improves and changes.

Photography documentaries are still available, just as great and powerful.
Photography documentaries have always been considered a strong tool for social change.

Since the camera was made and made available, photographers have utilized it to capture shots of the world around them, and that includes the problems they see in it.

Wars, poverty, hunger, and social injustices are the massive topics that have been captured in photographs. It has proven itself a humongous tool for revolution by simply bringing in uninformed people in a worthy and meaningful way to the cause.

Documentary Photography is rightfully thought to be an umbrella term that carries within it many styles and themes for example Social Documentary; War Photography Conservation Photography; Ethnographic Photography; New Documents; photo essay; and Social Landscape photography. What unites these styles at the root is the principle that the camera is in its true sense, a machine for capturing reality.


Writer CreditKavya Pillai
Digital Showcase of Lens Rider is founded by Nishant Pandey. It is essentially a magazine to guide photographers. Here we put out new blogs everyday having tips and tricks of photography and information about different areas of photography that one can explore.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow us


Latest Post