Documentary Trends

There are a number of trends in documentary photography that have been developing over the past few years.

Firstly the way documentary photography is funded is changing. While it is possible to receive a commission and to be ‘sent’ to cover a story many photographers are turning to crowdfunding websites to support their work. Websites like and allow photographers to post details of their project online and seek sponsorship for it.

With the rise of mobile phones with cameras, there has been an incredible increase in the number of photos that are available. It seems like there is next to nothing that has not been photographed already and no where to go that cameras have not already been. In addition there is a rise in the number of people that call themselves photographers. There is a perception that anyone can take a photograph. The sad truth is that while anyone can take a photograph, not anyone can take a good photograph. And a good photograph is what is needed to stand out among the proliferation of poor images and selfies that we are bombarded with every day.

This has also led to a rise in citizen photojournalism. Kevin Mullins said this about the problem, “whenever there is a news event, the BBC will ask for people to submit their mobile phone images. People are doing it, and some are doing a good job – it’s always important to have the news stories covered, of course, but at the same time, in the UK at least, a lot of news photojournalists are being put out of work or having their fees drastically reduced.” (Source)

In the past ten years or so there has also been new ways for people to share their photos, new images or otherwise. This was an interesting example about photojournalists using Instagram.

The line between documentary and art is becoming more and more fuzzy. Photo journalists like Mitch Epstein and Edward Burtynsky are creating fantastic fine art images that highlight social and environmental issues and these images are selling for hefty prices and are collected by galleries around the world.

Peiter Hugo is a great example of a documentary photographer that uses fine art techniques when taking and displaying his images. This is sometimes referred to as conceptual documentary.

I have a particular interest in wedding documentary photographs while there are many examples of great wedding photographers combining art and documentary styles. Two good examples are Jeff Ascough and Denis Reggie. I like the way they capture the intimate moments at a wedding without any posing.