Research point – Paul Seawright Sectarian Murders

How does this work challenge the boundaries between documentary and art?

He gives some of the information, but not all of it. His images show the places where murders occurred, but in a way that makes the places look more normal. We have to reconcile ideas of murder with images of far more innocent looking places such as school playgrounds or historic sites where we might walk our dog or play with our children. Colours are carefully considered and the composition engages us. The viewpoint that he provides us is not one that we would expect from a documentary image; for example from the top of a playground slide or from low down at dog level. We know that he is showing us the location of a real event, but we need to fill in the details, whereas documentary would provide us with more of the facts.

What is the core of his argument and do you agree with him?

The core of his argument is that documentary photography has to get its meaning across in a matter of seconds. I would add that documentary photography also has a particular meaning to get across. Whereas he says that art photography can “give up” its message slowly. It allows the viewer to take their time finding the meaning. He also points out that the meaning will ultimately be decided by the viewer, not by him. I agree with him on both points. I have to keep pulling my A1 back from serving up too much information.

If we define a piece of documentary photography as art, does this change its meaning?

Yes, because instead of allowing the photographer to determine the meaning of the work we throw it open to the viewers to decide for themselves. Meaning is quite a slippery concept at the best of times.

One thought on “Research point – Paul Seawright Sectarian Murders

  1. Catherine October 11, 2017 / 1:37 pm

    Don’t viewers decided for themselves anyway?

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