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Basic Critical Theory for Photographers by Ashley la Grange

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5 Martha Rosler, In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)

This is a summary of the first part of Rosler’s essay as it appears in The Contest of Meaning, edited by Richard Bolton.

Rosler asks why documentary photographers still want to photograph the Bowery (a skid row in New York), when it is no longer possible to justify photographing it either in terms of helping or exposing the occupants.

She states that documentary photography represents a liberal social conscience. In the USA, it was at its most important in the ‘ideological climate’ of state liberalism and reform movements in first half of the twentieth century. However, it had muckraking associations, and predated the ‘myth of journalistic objectivity’ (p. 306), which ...

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