The Photographer and the Subject: Two Views in Every Photograph

As photographers, a common rhetoric we hear is about finding our style. We are to consider so many technical aspects like lighting, lenses, color grading, and choice of palette. On some platforms, these aspects have become more important than the content of the images themselves. However, there are so many other aspects of photography, and every genre of photography has its own set of considerations. In this talk for TEDx Chattanooga, Photojournalist Billy Weeks discusses the role of the photographer in an area of photography that is often thought to be objective in nature.

Of course, we all know that no photograph can be purely objective in nature. However, photojournalism is supposed to be as objective as humanly possible. Documentary photography less so. Weeks explores the concept of the photographer's point of view and what shapes it. He gives three examples that draw from his own sensibilities and goes into how that shapes what images are made. He then talks about how the subject shapes the images. These two things come together to form a third perspective, and that is the one of the viewer. 

Have you considered your role in making images? What part does your history play in shaping the way you make images? How do you choose your subjects and treatments? How important is this in the work you do?

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5 Comments

I've always known documentary photography wasn't objective but thought it was supposed to be. If not, how would you state the purpose of documentary photography?

To me documentary photography differs from pure photojournalism in that you're encouraged to have a point of view. You're not simply there to record as objectively as possible.

I don't know if I should be relieved that I correctly judged the bias in a great number of cases or lament the absence of objective documentation as a goal. If photojournalism is supposed to be as objective as humanly possible, it doesn't speak well for the capabilities of humanity. I would have thought your definitions were reversed but, perhaps, there is no objectivity to be found anywhere. Perhaps objectivity is over-rated. :-/

Billy Weeks's picture

Thank You Dylan. I am humbled that you would write about my talk.

It was a good one, Billy. It deserved to be shared. :)