The Next Challenge for Documentary Photography

Marc Prüst
Nov 2, 2015 · 2 min read

Recently the Photoreporter Festival in St. Brieuc closed its doors to the audience for its fourth consecutive edition. Since the first edition, only 4 years ago, the festival has produced 48 documentary stories: it gave grants to photographers who produced their stories in places all over the world. The stories include subjects such as Domestic Violence, Sea Bird Cities, the Wall between Bangladesh and India, Illegal Immigration from Mexico to the USA, Failed NGO programs in Ghana, and many others. All these stories have been funded through a local initiative that gathers funds from the local business community in the region. Some 40 partners are able to gather the funds necessary to pay for this type of reportage photography.

This seems to be one of many possibly alternatives to magazine funded assignments now that these outlets no longer are able to pay photographers to fill their pages. But that is not the only thing magazines are no longer able to do. Magazines were able to fund documentary photography, but perhaps even more importantly, the magazines guaranteed the distribution of those stories. Readership was high, stories reached an important audience. We might think that internet has taken over that role, and through online stories can reach mass audiences. And indeed, online magazines like Lensculture, or the photo department blogs like New York Times’ Lens reach large audiences. Somehow though it seems that these fora reach mostly specialized niche audiences specifically interested in photography , and are less prone to reaching audiences that are interested in the stories that are offered, instead of the medium that is used (photography).

It seems to me that this is one of challenges the photographic industry faces: how can photographic stories reach beyond those who love photography, to those who love stories?

Marc Prüst

Written by

freelance photography consultant and curator - specialist in visual storytelling, artistic director NUKU photo festival Ghana