Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography Since the Sixties

Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography Since the Sixties

by Brett Abbott
     
 

In the decades following World War II, an independently minded, critically engaged form of photojournalism began to flourish. It was not destined for the morning papers or exclusively for newsmagazines, and it did not attempt to be neutral. This kind of photojournalism was self-assigned. It declared its independence from the mainstream media's editorial control,

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Overview

In the decades following World War II, an independently minded, critically engaged form of photojournalism began to flourish. It was not destined for the morning papers or exclusively for newsmagazines, and it did not attempt to be neutral. This kind of photojournalism was self-assigned. It declared its independence from the mainstream media's editorial control, and it was disseminated to the public through books, exhibitions, articles, and, more recently, the Web.
Engaged Observers focuses on nine photographers who have participated in the development of this documentary approach. Surveyed are Leonard Freed (Black in White America), Philip Jones Griffiths (Vietnam Inc.), W. Eugene Smith (Minamata), Susan Meiselas (Nicaragua: June 1978-July 1979), Mary Ellen Mark (Streetwise), Larry Towell (The Mennonites), Sebastiao Salgado (Migrations), Lauren Greenfield (Girl Culture), and James Nachtwey ("The Sacrifice"). Each section opens with an introductory essay that sets the work in its evolving historical context.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

 “The camera’s might as the teller of history and societal critic is in full vigor in this remarkable collection.  Anyone with a taste for this brand of photography will be richly rewarded.  Highly recommended.”—Library Journal

 “These documentarians have tackled subjects that range from race relations and war to eating disorders and mass migrations. Departing from the confines of traditional photojournalism, they have combined their skills as reporters with their personal vision as artists.”—Montreal Gazette

 “Showing the past and its hardships, these evocative photos surely transcend the realm of traditional photojournalism.”—Photo Review

“Some of the best documentary photography of the twentieth century.”—Seattle Times

“The nine preeminent photographers presented in this book have changed the course of both history and photographic history by blurring the lines between objectivity and subjectivity in photography. They have redefined the very idea of what documentary photography is.”—Choice 

“A superb compilation . . . [that] includes images taken in remote and often dangerous locations by famous photographers such as Robert Kappa, Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith, and many more.”—Snap Shots

Library Journal
The Vietnam War launched a new era in documentary photography, as photojournalists were given a free hand to capture everything, unlike previous 20th-century American wars in which the government tightly controlled coverage. The practices that started in Vietnam quickly spread globally. Abbott, the J. Paul Getty Museum's associate curator of photography, presents a survey of documentary photography gleaned from nine previously published volumes, including Philip Jones Griffith's Vietnam Inc., W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith's Minamata, and Mary Ellen Mark's Streetwise. Monochrome is the medium of choice for documentarians, with only Lauren Greenfield's Fast Forward and Girl Culture and Susan Meiselas's Nicaragua in color. All the artists' representations are dramatic and often emotional, but subjects range from the mundane to the horrific, from children sleeping and farmers working to Japanese villagers sickened and deformed by mercury poisoning and battle zones capped by Nachtwey's army field hospital photos depicting surgeons desperately working to save gruesomely wounded soldiers in Iraq. VERDICT The camera's might as the teller of history and societal critic is in full vigor in this remarkable collection. Anyone with a taste for this brand of photography will be richly rewarded. Highly recommended.—Mike Rogers, Library Journal

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781606060223
Publisher:
Getty Publications
Publication date:
02/29/2000
Edition description:
1
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
11.30(w) x 11.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Brett Abbott is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He is the editor of Edward Weston's Book of Nudes and the author of In Focus: Edward Weston.

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