The Value of the Documentary Photograph

As you know, I have a camera everywhere I go and Christmas Eve with friends was no exception. They always have a houseful of family and friends and you can count on there being a sing-along of holiday carols. I made the choice of a Pentax MX with a fast 28mm f2 lens knowing that their living room can be dark and I’d need to shoot slow and fast.

These were made at 1/30 at f2 for the most part. It’s so natural for me to document the festivities though I leave the camera at my side and socialize and only reach for it when something strikes me. Then I go into photographing mode.

They seem to me to be timeless photos because they are in black and white. Though I wonder if others, being so used to digital pictures, see them as not documentary photos but rather as lacking color. As stark, contrasty, and grainy and worse than the phone snaps they made themselves.

I often print photographs for family and friends and without a print, do any of these photos stand a chance of lasting any longer than the glance and swipe of their phone pics?

They are what I make and I find them wonderful. I’m a longtime photojournalist and I live to document my world. For me, film is what makes these documentary photos special. But in a sea of digital snaps, does the wonder translate to others, or are they just thinking, “nice expressions, too bad they’re not in color.”

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