Paul Seawright – Sectarian Murder

Research point

Look online at Paul Seawright’s work, Sectarian Murders:

  • How does this work challenge the boundaries between documentary and art? Listen to Paul Seawright talk about his work at: [accessed24/02/14]
  • What is the core of his argument? Do you agree with him?
  • If we define a piece of documentary photography as art, does this change its meaning?

Video accessed 27.10.2018

Seawright describes himself as a  photographic artist and is talking about his images as art rather than journalistic.  He describes a balance between it being too explicit and leaving some room for the viewer to access the meaning.  

He is wanting his viewer to take time to look at the images and learn more from them and their context in taking that time.  He compares this to journalisic images which he says need to give up their explicit meaning quickly, so that the viewer can keep turning the page.  

In both Seawright’s sets of Sectarian Murders (Above) and Hidden (below), he hints at previous aggression and conflict, by showing what is left in the places where it happened.  That coupled with the factual text under the images allows the view to look around his images as he describes in the video.

All of images in Sectarian Murders are complex and you see different things each time you look.  However, they are much more than just a documentary images, there is an artistic quality to the composition.  It appears that he has tried to give a feel of area and from a person’s point of view.

I think I do agree that presenting documentary photography as art it does change the meaning.  Seawright’s images definitely take on the ‘aftermath’ aproach showing us the place where something HAS happened.  The viewer has to react to the context and or narrative that goes alongside the image.  It makes you look for the meaning in the photo

Had these images just been shown in the media, they would have been looked over quickly.  I kind or relate it to the annual poppy festival, it’s a way reconnecting people with things that have happened so that they don’t happen again. 

Palestinian Protester

Captured on October 22 by Mustafa Hassouna of Turkey's Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

This image just came up in my facebook feed: it was taken just a few days ago by a photojournalist in Gaza, Palestine.  I think this demonstrates beautifully the distinction between photojournalism and art.

The image went viral on social media, such as twitter because of is likeness to a famous painting by Delacroix’s, Liberty Leading the People.

Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

The first article I read about this focused more on the asethics of the image and likeness to the artwork than the real story and context in which this image was taken and that shocked me!

But having researched more, it seems that the argument about art versus reality is allowing other writers to push forward the realities of this very real modern day struggle.

Another article by the Independent argues that we should not be romanticising about this and gives a more balanced report.

The Aljazeera News told how Laleh Khalili, a SOAS University professor person, who posted the image on twitter also linked it to Delcroix’s painting generating agreement from other users and ‘creating the narrative’.

google search for Palestinian Protesters, showing less iconic images, which over more context and reality

Like Dorothea Lange’s migrant mother, the man in the image, Aed Abu Amro, may not personally benefit from this image, but he may indirectly bring the situation to a wider audience.

As it was reported that this idea of ‘liberty’ has been floated before in Gaza, one one wonders if like Lange, the photographer was sent out with list of images to get.  After all it is quite clear from the google search that many people carry flags whilst they are protesting!

Project 3 Exercise

Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style.

In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats.
What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why?

I found this a very interesting exercise.  I like black and white photos, but usually just convert them from colour.  So actually taking them in black and white gave it a new perspective.

In order to take photos in black and white I had to learn how to set my camera to Monochrome in the shooting menu and then because I use a DSLR,  I had to use the live view on the screen rather than the viewfinder, which obviously doesn’t change.

I chose this village street, because it had a number of different elements that I thought might be interesting. Ultimately though, the time of day and the lighting didn’t add much value to the images.

I decided to take the colour photos first and then take black and white ones, as I didn’t want to mix them up.  This turned out to be a good plan because as I had taken them in RAW, Lightroom subsequently converted them all back to colour when I downloaded them.

For the purposes of this exercise, jpgs would have probably been sufficient.

As it was a very ‘bland’ day, lighting and weather wise , the colour images are only enhanced where there are blocks of green or dashes of colour to lift them, but they do give a feel of the time of year and almost deserted streets.

The black and white images however, don’t offer the same information about time of year.  They could have been taken at any time.  I also found that they are much more structured and detailed.  There are not some many images of the trees and flowers and more of buildings and items where there is a greater contrast between the elements of the image.


I’m not sure I really have a favourite set of these images. They both do different things.  I think on balance I prefer the colour ones here.  Only because you get a better sense of time of year.

Lewis Hine

One of the first things I learned about Lewis Hine, is that he took a photo I have known of many years!   One of the GPs I used to work for had this image on his wall.


Famous image of workers on the Empire State Building by Lewis Hine

I think it demonstrates how this image is now considered for it’s aesthetics rather than any social issues that Hine may or may not have been trying to highlight at the time.


google search for images by Lewis Hine

Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange was a second generation German immigrant born in New Jersey in the USA if 1895.

screenshot of google search for Dorothea Lange images

 One of Dorothea’s most famous images is ‘Migrant Mother’ taken in 1936 of a mother affected by the great depression.  Lange was working for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), who commissioned the images, giving the photographers a list of images they wanted them to get.  The FSA section head who commissioned the images described it as ‘the’ image of the FSA and that he often wondered what she was thinking.

Florence Thompson’ the woman in the image later complained that she never earned a penny from the picture. However, although she didn’t directly benefit at the time, the image did lead to food aid being sent to the camp.  In her essay; In, Around and Afterthoughts, Matha Rosler, argues that Mrs Thompson was justified in feeling aggrieved. . . she says that documentary photographs have two moments:

  1. arguing for or against the social issue it portrays and seeking to persuade change.
  2. the artistic value as a piece of art or as she calls it ‘aesthetic “rightness”.

It seems that she argues that the image becomes more about the photographer than the content and that the photographers don’t have ‘sympathy’ for the real world, but are only concerned with the aesthetics.

This resonates when compared with the Citizen Journalism which in the main is taken by those involved or suffering from a given situation.


la, A., 2005. Basic Critical Theory for Photographers. Elsevier Science.

Project 1 Eyewitnesses? – Part 3

Having asked about finding examples of citizen journalism on the CAN forum, one of the students mentioned that he had been involved in the ‘Umbrella Movement’ in Honk Kong in 2014.  When I looked it up I found both the story and images really interesting.

The umbrella movement were a series of sit in protests led by students against the Chinese governments decision regarding reforms to the Hong Kong electoral system.  The protesters who numbered into their thousands totally blocked main roads in Hong 

Peter said that the umbrellas were used to protect people from the pepper spray being used by the police and yellow is symbol of the pro democracy movement in Hong Kong.  

screenshot of conversation with Peter

With lots of people there having camera phones it means there are lots of images of the same incident from different perspectives. This means you’re not getting just one persons view of an event, but many.  So whereas one person’s image may be misleading or misread, the existence of many images of the same thing a more honest view of the event.

Project 1 Eyewitnesses? – Part 2

So having taken the advise of my course colleagues I looked again for examples of ‘citizen journalism’. Almost immediately during a trawl of the bbc news site, I came across this article:

Arlène Agneroh; the lady in the image, is a 33 year old single lady from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is successful, educated and attractive. 

However, “In a predominantly Catholic country where many women are still confined to the household, marriage is widely seen as a necessary rite of passage”.

Arlène says she was saddened by the fact that this image posted on social media led to friends automatically concluding that she had got married, without asking any questions or checking the facts.

This a perfect example of citizen journalism highlighting a social issue.

The couple posed for picture above after this  image of the two of them together was misconstrued as them being a married couple.

It is an example of images that, when taken out of context can lead to a misleading viewpoint.  However, in doing so it has inadvertently highlighted an issue for women living in the Congo.

The fact that it is now being reported on the BBC shows traditional journalism is picking up on stories from social media and is able to add a more balanced view.

Project 1 – Learning Log

This has been an interesting start to the course work.  I really get the concept of ‘citizen journalism‘ and can definitely see the impact it has had on the way news is reported now. (i.e. there is more footage and stills used from ‘ordinary’ people involved in events), I did find it a struggle to find images / stories actually initiated by people.  In particular current and up to date stories.

I decided to ask on the course forum and got some help from some of my fellow students.  This had a few benefits:

a) I think rather than searching for ‘citizen journalism’ I realised I need to look at specific events

b) most of the students shared links to their blogs, which I found really  helpful, with some great examples.

c) one of the students actually pointed me in the direction of a social movement he was involved in, which was not only really interesting but also gave me the opportunity to ask him some direct questions about it.

Whilst I definitely don’t want to copy what others have or are doing, I do really find it helpful of see what others are doing and often find that this often triggers ideas of my own. I will continue to follow them as a source of inspiration during the course.

So now armed with this new focus I’m going to revisit the brief.

Project 1 Eyewitnessess?

The point of view of any event or scene gives us the momentarily belief we have witnessed this scene.  But in actual fact we have not, only the photographer has and therefore, we don’t really know what is real or not.

In this era for webcams and drones, even the photographer doesn’t have to be there!


Find some examples of news stories where ‘citizen journalism’ has exposed or highlighted abuses of power.

How do these pictures affect the story, if at all? Are  these pictures objective? Can pictures ever be objective?

Write a list of the arguments for and against. For example, you might argue that these pictures do have a degree of objectivity because the photographer  (presumably) didn’t have time to ‘pose’ the subjects, or perhaps even to think about which viewpoint to adopt. On the other hand, the images we see in  newspapers may be selected from a series of images and how can we know the factors that determined
the choice of final image?  Think about objectivity in documentary photography and make some notes in your learning log before reading further.


Citizen Journalism (Oxford English Dictionary): – noun:

The collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet –

source:     [accessed 6.10.18]

Although I found many many articles and twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated to Citizen Journalism, what it is and what it has achieved, it’s very difficult to find recent images that have been shared which expose abuses of power.  It seems the Citizen Journalism, which first appeared in the early 2000s and was heralded as the movement that would change the face of journalism for ever.

It seems that in a way it has, but with ‘Fake news’ currently being in the spotlight it would appear that citizen journalism has had it’s day.  Ordinary people had an opportunity to show events from their own perspective, but unlike traditional journalism, what they say is not subject to the ethical scrutiny which means that some question the validity / truth of the comments being told.  Having also looked a number of newspaper sites, it is clear that traditional media now uses much more footage shot by ordinary citizens defines Citizen Journalism as “the collecting and reporting of information via social media, plubkic platforms and traditional new outlets, either by non-traditional sources or the public”.  Although it is widely thought of as a modern phenomenon there are examples as far back as the 1960s.


Reflective Writing

As you develop as a photographer, it’s important not only to develop strong technical skills but to use them effectively to promote your ideas and intentions. Your practical work should reflect what you’ve been learning both in terms of technique and your conceptual intentions.
Self-reflective writing will help you to order your own thoughts but will also help your tutor and course assessors (if you go down this route) to understand your intentions, how you intend to carry them out and how the result meets, or fails to meet, your intentions.  Keep your reflective accounts relevant and concise. Be critical of your own practice – not necessarily negative, but thoughtful and reflective, perhaps with a little distance. Write factually about how your technical decisions, ideas and contextualisation have come together to create a successful (or, in some cases, not so successful) final outcome.  Give reasons as to why you believe the outcome is successful/unsuccessful; this will help you progress next time and will provide a basis for discussion with your tutor. At assessment it will also demonstrate how well you understand your own work, which is very important.  
Ideas books and diaries can be useful adjuncts to the learning log that records your artistic journey. Get into the habit of making notes as you go about your normal routines; these may prove very useful when you look back on them later. You’ll be using a diary in Part Three so you may wish to get a head start by keeping one from the beginning of the course.  
Overall it is our hope that you’ll combine technique, personal intention and contextualisation in the final outcome to produce compelling and coherent practical projects that evidence a depth of research and personal vision. 

Keeping this is a guide to use when reflecting on my work

I have read assignment three with regards to keeping a diary.  Traditionally I’ve never been very good at doing this, so this will be a challenge for me.  I will think about how best to approach it and put something in place.