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This blog entry continues from Reportage (i) at: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/reportage-i/

Cartier-Bresson described the ‘decisive moment’ as ‘the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organisation of forms which gave that event its proper expression’ (Marien, 2006:258). The idea of the decisive moment has its antecedents in art history (Bate, 2009:56) and in the field of photojournalism has come to mean ‘recording  something that is happening anyway, skilfully grabbing some kind of ordered scene out of the chaos of the ongoing world’ (Bull, 2010:18).

Despite these two modes of documentary (see previous blog above) it can be said that both ‘depend on the idea of witnessing ‘life’’ (Bate, 2009:59), and this aspect has been taken to the point of producing diaries in loosely documentary form by photographers such as Nobuyoshi Araki (b. 1940), Nan Goldin (b. 1953) and Richard Billingham (b. 1970) (Bull, 2010:112). Other photographers that could be added to this list are Wolfgang Tillmans (b.1968), Muzi Quawson (b. 1978), Rinko Kawauchi (b. 1972) and Ryan McGinley (b. 1977)  (Soutter, 2013:70), and Corinne Day (b. 1965) (Cotton, 2009:146).

Nan Goldin’s ‘thirty-year (and continuing) exploration of her selected ‘family’ of friends and lovers not only chronicles the narrative of her circle but also, in a number of ways, sets the standard by which intimate photography and its creators are judged’ (Cotton, 2009:138). This chronicle began as a slide show accompanied by music (The Ballad of Sexual Dependency- The Tiger Lillies & Nan Goldin, 2011) and was published in book form in 1986 (Goldin, 1986; Nan Goldin – The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (s.d)).

Although these photographers do not belong to any movement they have important similarities in that their works ‘engage a sense of the subjective, the personal’ (Soutter, 2013:70) and their photography of private and daily existence is ‘realised with a snapshot aesthetic or openness on the part of the photographer to represent the spontaneity of domestic life’ (Cotton, 2009:159). Bull (2010:63) makes a similar point about the style of these photographers adding that their use of colour was significant in removing the perception of colour photography as something that documentary from advertising and commercial editorial photography.  Bate (2009:63) says that during the 1980s colour became the ‘new reality’ and:

The use of colour photography had been increasingly dominant in amateur snapshots from the 1960s onward. The idea of snapshots as offering a more authentic access to reality, due to it ‘naïve realism’ helped to renovate documentary as offering an unmediated access to reality. The more ‘authentic’ realism of the colour snapshot was gradually absorbed into the style of documentary photography—a newer, so called ‘amateur’ snapshot aesthetic (Bate, 2009:63).

This new colour snapshot aesthetic was to supersede the older monochrome (black and white) documentary photography typified by work of Henri Cartier-Bresson who once declared: ‘Photography in colour? It is something indigestible, the negation of all photography’s three-dimensional values’ (O’Hagan, 2012).


Bull, Stephen (2010) Photography. Abingdon: Routledge

Cotton, Charlotte (2009) the photograph as contemporary art. new edition London: Thames & Hudson

Goldin, Nan (1986) The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. New York: Aperture

Marien, Mary Warner (2006) Photography: A Cultural History 2nd Edition. London: Laurence King

Nan Goldin – The Ballad of Sexual Dependency Pres. Haveanicebook (s.d) 4:11 mins At: https://vimeo.com/82283265 (Accessed on 18.09.14)

O’Hagan, Sean (2012) ‘Henri Cartier-Bresson: who can beat the master of monochrome?’ In: The Guardian [online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/nov/07/henri-cartier-bresson-photography (Accessed on 18.09.14)

Soutter, Lucy (2013) Why Art Photography?. Abingdon: Routledge

The Ballad of Sexual Dependency- The Tiger Lillies & Nan Goldin (2011) 40:46 mins At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlZJMS1wwsU (Accessed 18.09.14)