The purpose of photography

August 12, 2013 · by David Campbell · photography

Vanessa Winship e1376319006738 The purpose of photography

It’s been quiet in these parts again…June was spent working on a video project for the West End Refugee Service in Newcastle, and July was spent doing research on refugee images in the Australian media at the University of Queensland.

Now that I’m back I’ve been catching up on reading, and the “Coming of Age” cover story on creativity in the British Journal of Photography’s June 2013 issue (although not online in its entirety) was interesting. In truth, many of the constructed and stylised images of the featured photographs left me cold. But there were some notable exceptions, especially if the intersection of politics and photography is your concern – Don McCullin, of course, with Vanessa Winship, George Georgiou and David Goldblatt the standouts.

I liked how Goldblatt and Winship talked about their purpose, for it is the purpose of photography that is the most important criteria when judging images:

“I’ve been doing the same thing for 60 years. Today I’m doing exactly what I was doing in the years of apartheid. I’m looking critically at the processes taking place in my country.” (David Goldblatt, p. 73)

“It’s necessary to keep looking at and addressing different narratives and different ways of telling something about the world we live in.” (Vanessa Winship, p. 50)

Critically looking at the processes taking place in one’s country; developing different narratives and different ways of telling something about the world we live in. What better purpose could there be?

Photo: Copyright Vanessa Winship, from The Democracy of Universal Vulnerability: Vanessa Winship’s “She dances on Jackson”.

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