Behind the scenes

Photojournalism in the Gallery Space

Photojournalism seems to work best on a small scale where one can intimately engage with the message being disseminated. Its intention can be said to be a narrow, more didactic one than ‘art’ photography, drawing the viewer along a narrow passage of thought, rather than the more opaque qualities of photography intended for the gallery wall.

Photojournalism’s role has always been one of social responsibility; a moral conscience with which it ventures out into the world, aiming to respond to injustice and tyranny. However the ‘fetishization’ of the gallery based image works contrary to photojournalism’s intention to comment on political subject matter. On the one hand it seems to say, ‘look at the system, look at the problems it causes,’ and on the other, ‘the system is good – it allows me to show this to you for your consumption and pleasure.’

The shrewd photojournalist needs deal with this contradiction. They need to change the emphasis of their work to in order to have one eye on the gallery space/ art market. With this comes an acceptance that production values play a significant, and perhaps, defining role in the gallery environment.

The image as ‘object’ has had significance through the history of photography. Single prints of Cameron, Atget, Steiglitz and Evans fetch many hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction. The gallery is the natural domain for the wandering collector, who is engaged by the image, of course, but needs to be seduced by the object.

As technology progresses and systems of communication become more engrained in our everyday lives, the gallery space becomes, I feel, more not less relevant as a space to view photography. Not just to view the image – but to view the object and to re-engage with the craft of production. We can engage with the image here in a fundamentally different and more visceral way compared with the bafflement with which we view images on the computer screen.


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