Documentary Photography

Looking Back and Changing Your Story

Emily and Doggy in the Window

Little Girl and Doggy in the Window © 2009 Roger Overall

If I am ever sent to a desert island, I hope there will be WiFi. If there isn’t, I’ll include it in one of the three things that I’m allowed to bring with me. Thinking this through, I’ll need a tablet for surfing the web, as well as taking, processing and uploading images. I’ll need a source of power too. That’s my entire list of three things immediately taken care of. No room for chocolate or coffee. Still, it does keep me taking pictures and it opens up a window to the world to see what everyone else is doing in my absence*. Specifically, I could still get my daily fix of The Online Photographer. If I couldn’t, I’m not sure I could survive**.

TOP, as the site is affectionately known among its community, is a gem of a blog. Mike Johnston’s writing is witty, clear, illuminating and wonderful. His personality oozes from its pixels and he has built a loyal and mutually respectful community around his personal brand of photography commentary. His stance is grown-up, considered and thoughtful. His grammar is perfect. He doesn’t use exclamation marks at the end of every third sentence and knows how a semi-colon operates. Most importantly for me, he talks about the kind of photography I like.

I write for TOP every now and then. This is from last week: The Danger of Revisiting Your Work.***

* I think this makes me not a very good candidate for a desert island sojourn.
** Re: the first note: That pretty much clinches it, doesn’t it?
*** I rewrote this paragraph several weeks after it first appeared. I realised that the first iteration was awful “humblebrag” – a phrase I picked up on TOP. Here’s what I published before: “I’m lucky that Mike lets me write for TOP every now and then. It’s a buzz when a submission gets through. He’s an excellent editor and guards against substandard material. I learn a lot when he rejects a piece. Last week, though, he let one through: The Danger of Revisiting Your Work.”

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Documentary Photography, Podcast

The Documentary Photographer Podcast – Episode 17: Denis Balibouse and the Gruyere Cheese Makers


Speaking purely from a selfish point of view: I could happily live out the rest of my days producing documentary photographs and films about artisan food producers. Being around them is inspirational. Their knowledge, skill and passion is infectious. Moreover, I like my food.

Gruyere cheese being made © 2013 Denis Balibouse
© 2013 Denis Balibouse

You can imagine, then, how excited I was when I came across the photographs and video that Reuters photographer Denis Balibouse produced of Gruyère cheese makers. He spent time with the Murith family between May and October last year documenting the making of Gruyère cheese on the mountainside. The experience challenged his assumptions about cheese making and traditional aspects of Swiss life, which he thought were under threat.

In our conversation, we talk about some of the fundamentals of documentary photography such as access and respecting your subject’s integrity and rights. We also look at the rise of video and its importance for us as documentary photographers.

Links

Denis’ website
Denis’ blog post about his experience
Denis’ post on the  Reuters blog with video

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