31 Aug 10 Photographers on what makes a good documentary photographer
I asked some of the photographers who have been interviewed on the Documentary Photography Review podcast to share their thoughts and experiences in response to a series of 12 questions.
In this article I ask:
What makes a good documentary photographer?
A heady mix of sensitivity and persistence.
A good documentary photographer is someone that is empathetic yet will always say the truth.
Someone who is passionate, determined and single minded.
Is there a correct answer for that?!
Apart form being a good image-maker, I guess someone who is professional, patience, humble, human with compassion with a high standard of ethics and respect for their subject matter. Someone who consults the people they photograph before publishing the images to make sure they are happy with the content and message that will be put across. Someone who spends time researching on the subject and photographs over a long period of time.
The ability and the engagement with the story, if you don’t like the story you are documenting it will be pretty hard to have a strong work in the end. But most important to show respect for the story and its subjects.
The same that makes a good investigative journalist with the added knowledge on how to handle a photo/video camera and a sound recorder. But I think the most important traits would have to be reflection and communication.
Curiosity (the natural bit), tenacity (the difficult bit) and technical skill (the easy bit).
The ability to use a visual voice successfully – and to listen.
The ability to communicate with people, give them respect within the photography, and be interested in the story you are photographing.
Pure curiosity and respect – without these two characteristics you are simply invading somebody else’s life!