chapter  1
43 Pages

Activism: Practice and Process

Philosophy and psychology “The contemplation of things as they are without error without confusion,

without substitution or imposture is in itself a nobler thing than a whole

harvest of inventions.”1

Since the documentary genre comprises the majority of activist

photography, it is important to define documentary for the purposes of

this book. The definition of documentary photography in the twenty-

first century is complex, multilayered, and nuanced. It is both process

and aesthetic and applies to a broad range of imagery, from traditional,

straight reportage-type images to the manipulated faux documentary

images that appear on gallery walls. To some degree, all photography is

documentary because all photographs document something. Each

photograph is evidence of something that appeared in front of the camera.

Walker Evans qualified the difference between a photographic document

and documentary photography: “When you say documentary, you have to

have a sophisticated ear to receive that word. It should be documentary

style, because documentary is police photography of a scene and a