Constructing the Real: Staged Photography and the Documentary Tradition
Green, David (2009) Constructing the Real: Staged Photography and the Documentary Tradition In: Theatres of the Real. Photoworks/Fotomuseum Provincie Antwerpen, Brighton/Antwerp, pp. 103-110. ISBN 9781903796269Full text not available from this repository.
The various senses of ‘theatricality’ as being artificial, affected and, ultimately, deceptive or false, seem to stand in direct contrast to photography’s claim to the values of realism and truth. Yet the act of staging people, objects and events for the camera has been an integral part of photography from its inception. This essay looks at the recent re-emergence of the use of strategies of the staged photograph within the domain of documentary practices. With reference to John Grierson’s promotion of documentary as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’, and Jeff Wall’s analysis of photo-conceptualism’s reworking of ‘art-photography-as-reportage’, it is argued that the repositioning of documentary photography into the domain of art has brought with it a new set of possibilities for new kinds of documentary practices specific to the gallery. In this context, the staged photograph, deemed illegitimate or inappropriate within the traditional confines of documentary, nonetheless offers itself as a suitable vehicle for documentary’s claims to address the world in which we live and to act as a prelude to forms of social agency.
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