I post as regularly as I can remember in a pool called, Picture Australia People, Places, & Events. I recently had an interesting exchange with a member of that team the admins the pool, which leads me to believe they have defined documentary photography, in contemporary Australian culture. Phew, what a relief, I can now put my cameras down rest easy, and concentrate on the more important aspects of life, such as the weekly AFL scores and who will lose the most weight this week on channel 10. Their definition?
... it documents aspects of change and is in focus.
Umm Robert Capa's famous image of the D-Day landings anyone?
During the exchange I received an almost backhanded compliment:-
"...but Picture Australia is more about documentary photography not art photography"
Well I'm flattered, thanks for compliment I think, but wait... are you saying that if a photo is out of focus it is art? Does that mean that if a photograph is in focus it is not art?
Here's the complete exchange,
NLA employee:-I have removed some of your photos from the people places events pool as they do not fit into the group guidelines Regards
XXXX | Picture Australia
P XXXXXX | XXXX | XXXX@nla.gov.au |Me:- Thanks for the heads up XXX, but why do they not fit and which did you remove?
NLA Employee:-The 'Picture Australia: People, Places and Events’ group is seeking images of social, political, contemporary and or historical events of national significance.
It's the photographs that are meant to be viewed as a slide show exploring photography as evidence that don't fit into images of social, political, contemporary and or historical events of national significance.Me:-So the changes going on in a place like Melbourne are not of any historical significance?
NLA Employee:-Yes they they are but Picture Australia is more about documentary photography not art photography. You have images that are perfectly fine but images in that series such as East Hawthorn Melbourne Victoria Australia 2008:03:07 12:08:13 unfocused with plastic solders covering the globe does not fit into documentaryMe:-Ok so can I re-submit the other stuff that fits?
NLA Employee:-As long as it documents aspects of change and is in focus.
Just for the record, I can guess when a photograph is art, and sure most photos are documents, of something, but my ideas and attitudes about what constitutes art and documentary photography, are not fixed in stone.
Oh and the photograph they refer to was not out of focus it was suffering from camera shake as it was taken in low light conditions, it's actually usually pretty hard to get a phone camera photograph out of focus.