Is it Art or is it Documentary?
Fine art documentary
Fine art documentary
Servicio de Publicaciones Universidad de Navarra
VanWinkle, B., (2016) ""Is it Art or is it Documentary?"" En: Alcolea, R.A, Tárrago-Mingo, J., (eds.), en Congreso internacional: Inter photo arch ""Intersecciones"", celebrado en Pamplona, los días 2 al 4 de Noviembre de 2016, (pp.296-307)
Documentary photography has always held a precarious place in the history of the medium: on the one hand it is called into service to be a ‘document’ a recounting of a place or time, a record keeping device of extreme and minute criteria. On the other hand, whatever the original intent, the photograph speaks in a variety of ways. It can be lifted up to a status beyond the simple depiction of the subject matter, into a deeper delving of the cultural and iconic meanings of buildings, gestures, and ultimately, our personal histories. Or perhaps the photograph is considered for its formal qualities: light, form, mass, or line. A further dichotomy can be added to the mix. Contradictory thinking is explicit in the very nature and intent of the person behind the camera. There is the vehicle itself, which affords the ability to record even the cracks of the sidewalks, the weather and the time of day, forming a critical mix of intent and science. Each of these ‘titles’ presents its own set of criteria, rules and predicaments. As a documentary photographer with over thirty years’ experience, recording and displaying images of vintage American movie theaters, I have debated these questions and conversations from the very beginning. Is it Art or is it Documentary? And are there times when it is neither or both? What does it take to create these images that speak to both sides of this debate? What are the respective roles of subjectivity and intent? Is there a place for storytelling and the ability of the photographer to share in the historic and communal connections that are embodied in the buildings themselves? I seek to raise and discuss these questions within this paper.
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