Site Specific Project- The People of Coventry- Photographers

After looking back at my summer task work, where I looked into the ideas and differences between Documentary and Street Photography, I decided to use some of the photographers I looked at to influence me in this project, focusing on the people of Coventry. From my research over the summer I found that documentary photography looked at documenting events focusing on highlighting an issue or topic to the viewers, where as street photography looks more at instinctive shots, taking photographs of people and the surroundings that are visually interesting rather than having a specific meaning.

Henri Carter-Bresson is a key documentary and street photographer, he documented the world yet he didn’t class himself as a documentary photographer, he concentrated on the image and visual qualities towards it. Cartier-Bresson was interested in “The Decisive Moment”; he said sometimes it would be spontaneous but other times he had to be patient and wait. He felt you didn’t always need to go out and hunt for photographs and opportunities, sometimes they would just happen and you need to make that decision as to whether to capture them. Cartier-Bresson often had to wait to get the perfect shot, patience is key to a good shot. In my work I should consider all elements and make sure that everything comes together to get a brilliant photograph; I want to capture natural photographs of the people of Coventry, yet I want them to be visually interesting, to do this may take time, waiting for the perfect photograph to come together.


Nikki S Lee studies the appearance of cultures and tried to blend in with the community. She uses disposable or point and shoot cameras to involve the community giving the cameras to people and having herself in the images. By involving the community the images become personal to that community and culture. Lee can often be seen in her image, however it is hard to recognise her in the images, she is shown in and part of the cultures. This involvement creates a personal project of documenting a community; even though in my own work I will not be involving myself in the community of Coventry to that extent, I still believe my project is personal to me. I moved to Coventry over a year ago to study at Coventry University, I have become part of the university and city community, by basing my project on the people of Coventry I feel my project is personal but not as personal as involving myself in the images. Lee’s images are very real and natural, I want this quality in my own images, I want natural photographs of the people, showing them in a real way and how they would act even if I wasn’t taking photographs.


Jacob Riis is a social complainer and journalist, he is often described as a social documentary photographer. Riis photographed the poorest people of New York during the depression, his use of photography was about social reform and a way to talk about these problems and highlight them. Making people aware of the issues in New York, he wanted to improve these conditions and show the world the ‘poor side’. In my photography, even though I am looking at a different subject, I still want to document and highlight the lives of the people of Coventry, showing how they go about their daily lives and the range of people in the city.


After looking at the different photographers’ work and styles, I decided to think about my own style and where my photography for this project would stand within the photographic world. This made me think about a lecture we were given about Documentary photography; what is documenting photography, the recording of an event at a certain time, it’s a form of story telling, it’s truth, capturing a moment in time.

The truth behind documentary photography can be questioned, how much can you trust about these photographs, some could have been set up, edited or used as propaganda. Even how you crop a picture and any language with the image will change the way you read an image. In my own work I want my photographs to be as believable as possible showing the true people of Coventry, to do this I plan on doing minimal editing so the colours and image is true to what I saw in the viewfinder when I captured my photograph.

Black and white photography was thought to be more true, credible and less distracting. In my own work I plan to use both black and white and colour photography to see which looks ‘truer’ and visually interesting for my project, yet I do feel that colour would show the personalities and variety of the people of Coventry, so I will experiment with both. Black and white isn’t truer that’s just what people were told, colour was kept for commercial uses and advertisements, however when people started using colour it was revolutionary, photographers such as Martin Parr and Paul Graham, made colour documentary photography acceptable.

Overall my photography for this project can be seen as both street and documentary photography; I am going out to document the people of Coventry, however my approach will be more street photography, as I will capture ‘interesting’ shots around the city.


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