October 12, 2015

Documentary Lifestyle Photography: Real is Better

In my last lifestyle photography tutorial, I made a case for how wide angle lenses can be used to lend intimacy and legitimacy to lifestyle photography. Today I will be layering upon that concept another nuance that can give credence to the authenticity of a lifestyle image…

Once upon a time in a discussion group, when Dorothea Lange (photojournalist best known for her depression era images) was questioned on the nature of her documentary approach, she referred to a 500 year old quote by Francis Bacon that states: “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention.”

Let me repeat (and paraphrase, grin): Things as they are.


No substitution or pretense or artifice.


Real is nobler than fake.


Dorothea Lange elaborated on the Francis Bacon quote, saying, “For me documentary photography is less a matter of subject and more a matter of approach. The important thing is not what’s photographed but how … My own approach is based upon three considerations. First – hands off! Whatever I photograph, I do not molest or tamper with or arrange. Second – a sense of place. Whatever I photograph, I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third – a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present.”

The concept is simple. Don’t mess with the shot. Don’t set it up. Don’t rearrange it. Don’t crop or clone out the detail. Use your wide angle  to anchor the sense of place & surroundings.


Because Things As They Are is Far Nobler than a Whole Harvest of Invention.

No comments: