The failure of modern documentary photography and photojournalism


For generations, what photographers have tried to do to change society’s mind on social and political issues shows exactly what is happening. We, like in most societies, are behind some sort of security: there are screens, editors, warnings, etc. These censors have made the public immune to so much, so much so that we continue with more stories like a kid accusing Pokemon Go of walking in traffic.

Why? We as a society like to be entertained until death,

Society and Guardians

The most important things for many of us are looking at cute animals, food, and telling everyone how dumb Donald Trump is. For us, sharing this type of content is a form of self-expression. We do the same for issues that are close to our hearts: the stereotypical vegan for example will share a few stories about how factory farming destroys the environment and treats animals inhumanely. Many of these stories are very raw; but we have the option to close the web page and move on.

The problems here often relate to intermediaries: like photo editors who have to meet specific standards for their newspaper business. This is part of what is called “framing” and you learn it in photojournalism school. You can tell a story with elements, but not the crudest types.

Now wait a second: why not? Why can’t you show people the pictures of the legs of these children taken away by this IED?

Usually what many editors and community managers will tell you is because it’s too graphic for them and people are complaining. However, this is proof that good photography always affects people. In fact, photographers have always documented these very harsh realities, but it was the Custodians who sometimes made the stories different in a way that was digestible to their audience.

This is not totally a bad thing in and of itself: of course, sometimes it is in the name of profit, but if they don’t make a profit then they can’t afford to pay the editors or the journalists. The information industry is a business after all.

The effects

All of this has culminated in the failure of modern photojournalism and documentary photography to convince people of issues that require attention: the work is probably very captivating, raw, in your face, and very worthy of making you want to. make a difference in your community. but the problem is, we aren’t shown all the rawest stories about a problem.

Basically we have become immune to it in its current stage. When something becomes too “graphic” or “not family friendly” then it is reported to a community leader and removed from our view.

So what is the solution ? To really get these stories out there, photographers need to start reaching out to more alternative publications or finding platforms where they can show these images. They have to find these gatekeepers with an audience and show them their point of view.

Some photographers use Viewfind to do this, while others look for grants or alternative agencies like Magnum. Still others go to other publications that would be interested in their work. Once those posts start showing what’s on display, the bigger players can start showing the world exactly what’s going on as well.


In the meantime, I want to show you the images of photographers who have tried to draw attention to the issues that interest them by finding a way to get around these limitations placed on them by using art:

Angelo Merendino has chosen to document an extremely difficult story to tell: the story of his wife’s battle with breast cancer. With Angelo’s deeply personal set of images, we cross the spectrum of emotions: joy, strength and incredible courage, right down to sadness, fragility and the anguish of death. It’s a great example of an effective story that touches you right in the heart and doesn’t let go.

You should see the full story here.


Bob Carey and the Tutu Project


When Ben Nunery and his wife Ali got married in 2009, they decided to have their wedding photos taken in the house they had just bought to document the start of their new life together. Sadly, their time together as a family was cut short when Ali succumbed to lung cancer in 2011, a year after the birth of their daughter Olivia.

You should see our interview here. All images taken and used with permission of Melanie Pace.


This series by Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz is one where he pays an ode to those who have recently left this world and who were important to him. Many of these people have died because of uses that continue to harm society.


Photographer Jennifer Judkins has lost her father to several things. He was one of the people who helped clean up the 9/11 site. For those of us who have heard of how we should be doing more to help all first responders and those who have helped afterwards, this series will touch you.


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