at Lumix Festival

“New Perspectives on Documentary Practices”, reflects on the changing position and strategies of photojournalism in today’s world. In particular, it examines current tendencies in visual storytelling and provides a compelling perspective on documentary practices.

Guest curator: Iris Sikking

What potential is inherent to innovative photojournalism in the current media landscape, which is undergoing such a dramatic transformation? 

What are the expectations and conditions that professional photographers active in the area of journalism believe they now face?

What are possible narrative approaches, which are essential to telling a story visually?

Iris Sikking Curatorial Statement

For this matter I have selected 12 projects, from 13 photographers, who use particular approaches towards their topic and subjects and are distinctive in their visual language and presentation formats. Therefore I have differentiated four strategies among which we can find some overlaps: the investigative strategy, the activist strategy, the participatory strategy, and the digital strategy.
By using these four categories I hope to provide a useful insight into the way these photographers deal with the production, conceptualization and dissemination of their content. I would argue that all these strategies fall within the broad domain of documentary photography; however, the selected artists question, through the use of a certain strategy, the documentary notion of truthfulness that seems to be relentlessly inscribed in this domain. Most of the artists are trained in photojournalism but have encountered the shortcomings of the practice during their careers.

Investigative Strategy

The first strategy, what I have called the investigative strategy, is based on a thorough investigation of a particular topic. It concerns photographers with a background in photojournalism who extensively search for facts and formulate critical narratives about the complexity of our current society. In doing so, they expose a deep concern for the needs of the ordinary people who are trying to make sense of their place in the global society—such as the “pallaqueras” in Peru, who sort the ore on the surfaces for pieces containing gold, photographed for the project “The Canary and the Hammer” by Lisa Barnard.

»Through a mix of image, text and archival material, Lisa Barnard provides an insight into the troubled history of gold and the complex ways it intersects with our global economy.«

Michał Łuczak Extraction

»The coal industry has dramatically altered the Silesian landscape and affected its natural environment. ”Extraction” shows us, without being critical, the consequences of coal production on an industrial scale.«

Activist Strategy

The activist strategy encompasses photographers who don’t hesitate to put themselves in the eye of the storm by taking a firm political standpoint. Young French artist Laura Ben Hayoun uses, for example, the photographic medium to provoke her family members to talk about their country of origin, Algeria.

»Her work is a visual fight that forces us to get back into a history that became her family history, a fight between a girl and her father questioning his understandings and tabou’s.«

»The sky of Ani or Diyarbakır, clouds over Adana or Yüksekova, are all the same, but all could speak of disappearance. The disappearance of cities, neighborhoods, and communities, of women and men, of places of memory and cultures.«

Ahmet Insel

»By volunteering for the EEVFAM – an organization formed by the widows of deceased – I gained insight and gathered evidence about the situation at hand. «

Rohit Saha
Rohit Saha 1528
Participatory Strategy

The strategy of an activist comes close to the third one, which is the participatory strategy. This is adopted by artists who make work about their immediate surroundings or personal histories through being part of, or becoming part of, the daily life of their subjects. In presenting the project they often employ performative activities, like Felipe Romero Beltrán, who, in the project “Reducción”, stages photographs in close collaboration with illegal immigrants and policemen in the streets of Madrid where he lives.

Felipe Romero Beltrán Reduccion

»The legal status of an immigrant determines whether she or he can regularly transit all city streets. The immigrant’s daily routine is affected when he or she does not have identification documents or a valid residence in the country. «

»“How like a leaf I am” examines entanglements of human and plant life and our collective responsibility for the rapid decline of ecosystems. The project advocates for the need to (re)learn how to read and live with our non-human environments.«

Alexandra Baumgartner How like a leaf I am

»“Are They Rocks or Clouds” builds a scenario for an environmental catastrophe to happen, through blending Caneve's research and archival footages, texts, and photographs. «

»The project presents us with a declaration of love, from a Kyivan student to her foreign lover and her native land, Ukraine. It is the potential of the subjective documentary approach to intervene in our understanding of our social world and our perception of opportunity for action within it.«

Amak Mahmoodian Zanjir

»A universal meditation on loss and separation, the project and exhibition draws on imagery from the Golestan archives in Tehran, texts and photographs by Mahmoodian, and excerpts from Taj Saltaneh’s memoirs. «

Digital Strategy

Although not per se a stand-alone strategy, I would like to put a focus on photographers who operate with digital strategies to produce work, or part of a work, because they see a photographic image no longer as only a tangible object, but as part of larger array of linked media (Fred Ritchin 2011). Mostly they operate with found footage extracted from the digital realm, create computational images, and use the internet as a platform to present the project itself. This is the case in the multimedia project “Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin”, by Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong, which was conceived as an exhibition and book in 2012, but was extended with images and video clippings from the internet into an interactive website in 2018.

»Knoth and De Jong present currents of images and story-lines, sometimes evocative or metaphorical, and at times switching to more descriptive elements. «

Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin

»Every day, newspaper editors are inundated with thousands of images of one event where one image will be destined to become iconic while others will vanish into oblivion. Using image recognition software, Vogelaar attempted to find the underlying patterns. «