About Cultural Photography

“Cultural Photography”is the art of taking photos for the purpose of telling about a people or a culture. The photographs may be as simple as portraits of faces, or as common as street scenes, or as complex as the capturing of scenes that illustrate social relationships.

Nothing about these kinds of images is new, of course. The cave paintings in Spain show us that this was done at the dawn of humanity. What is new and different today is the proliferation of inexpensive cameras that allow everyone easily to engage in “cultural photography” …and, indeed, everyone who uses their mobile phone to take pictures is a cultural photographer.

Making worth while cultural photographs is often not as simple as simply clicking the shutter, however. It requires a curiosity to see what is significant in the world around us, and the discipline to photographically document it. It requires thoughtful selection of what is to be photographed.

Photography offers both limitations and opportunities when we attempt to use it as a tool for documentation. While photography would seem to be the most “realistic” way of capturing the world around us, this is not necessarily true. As the noted photographer Richard Avedon once observed, “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
Making cultural photographs is not as simple as simply clicking the shutter of the camera, however. It requires a curiosity to see what is significant in the world around us, and the discipline to photographically document it.
It requires thoughtful selection.
Photography offers both limitations and opportunities when we attempt to use it as a tool for documentation. While photography would seem to be the most “realistic” way of capturing of the world around us, this is not necessarily true.
Our “interpretation” of what we are seeing, based on the context in which we are seeing it, becomes a major part of what we see. A photograph is just a selection from that overall scene.
Once this selection has become a photograph it is completely isolated from the overall context in which it originally existed.

Read full article on Israeli Lens Issue #9 Cultural Photography

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