Photography as Activism; A Review

Photography as Activism; Images for Social Change

Author: Michelle Bogre


Brett Abbot wrote an essay titled ‘Engaged Observers’ in which he defined documentary photography in loose terms to refer to a variety of practices that can be applied to landscape photography, architectural documentation, portrait photography, street photography, ethnographic studies and more. In ‘Photography as Activism’ by Michelle Bogre, documentary photography is examined by looking at philosophical and historical themes to help define the complexities found within activist photography. She seeks to differentiate between activist and non activist photography and helps the viewer to understand clearly how activist photography can be subtle and persuasive or confrontational. The most successfully defined identification of documentary photography, for me, comes from Beaumont Newhall, he understood that documentary photography is an approach to the photograph, not the photograph itself. This enables the style of documentary photography to be applied to photographic work without identifying as a documentary/activist photographer. Activist photography is considered to be a filter into how the photographer views the world around him/her, whilst also being an act into social change. The idea that it is better to be involved in the process of change despite there sometimes being no result.

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