'Formerly considered marginal to the realm of art-making, documentary is now one of its foremost modes, Along with the attention paid to photojournalism and mainstream documentary-making in a time of crisis, this development has been accompanied by a rich strain of theoretical and historical writing. This anthology explores documentary's roots in modernism and its critique under postmodernism. It surveys current thinking about its ethical, political and aesthetic implications and examines a wide range of work by artists within, around or against documentary traditions. 

'Artists surveyed include: Kutlug Ataman, Ursula Biemann, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hasan Elahi, Walker Evans, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Joan Fontcuberta, Regina José Galindo, David Goldblatt, Craigie Horsfield, Alfredo Jaar, Annemarie Jacir, Emily Jacir, Lisa F. Jackson, Philip Jones Griffiths, Dorothea Lange, An-My Le, Renzo Martens, Boris Mikhailov, Daido Moriyama, Walid Raad, Sebastião Salgado, August Sander, Sean Snyder.' (Back cover)

Documentary is one of the Documents of Contemporary Art series, co-published by Whitechapel Gallery and The MIT Press which document major themes and ideas in contemporary art. Other sourcebooks of the same series are also available in the Archive. For more details, please go to this page.

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Documents of Contemporary Art

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Chapter headings

Introduction - Julian STALLABRASS

Origins and Definitions

Thirteen Theses against Snobs, 1928 - Walter BENJAMIN

Documentary Photography, 1939 - Elizabeth MCCAUSLAND

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941 - James AGEE

Postwar Patterns, 1946 - John GRIERSON


The Curse of Colour, 2000 - Philip Jones GRIFFITHS

Interview with Art21, 2007 - An-My Lê

Interview with Mark Haworth-Booth, 2005 - David Goldblatt

Does Documentary Exist?

What a Documentary Is, After All, 2005 - Carl PLANTINGA

Naked Image, Ostensive Image, Metamorphic Image, 2003 - Jacques RANCIERE

Documentary Is/ Not a Name, 1990 - TRINH T. Minh Ha

Photojournalism and Documentary: For, Against and Beyond

Photographic Journalism, 1948 - William Eugene SMITH

The Decision to Shoot, 1972 - Daido MORIYAMA, 森山大道

From One China to Another, 1954 - Jean-Paul SARTRE

The Traffic in Photographs, 1981 - Allan SEKULA

Unconcerned but not Indifferent, 2008 - Adam BROOMBERG, Oliver CHANARIN

The Documentary Debate, 2003 - David STRAUSS

Interview with Phong Bui, Dore Ashton and David Levi Strauss, 2009 - Alfredo Jaar

Active and Passive Spectators

On Photography, 1977 - Susan SONTAG

in, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography), 1981 - Martha ROSLER

Citizenship Beyond Sovereignty: Towards a Redefinition of Spectatorship, 2008 - Ariella AZOULAY

Torture and the Ethics of Photography, 2009 - Judith BUTLER

A Language of Practice, 2008 - Hito STEYERL

The Limits of the Visible

Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, 2003 - Georges DIDI-HUBERMAN

Reality Would Have to Begin, 2004 - Harun FAROCKI

Interview with Melissa Silverstein, 2008 - Lisa F. Jackson

Interview with Ben Kharakh, 2008 - Lisa F. Jackson

Black Sea Files, 2005 - Ursula BIEMANN

Showing Sounds: Listening to War Photographs, 2012 - Marta ZARZYCKA

Documentary Fictions

Interview with Christina Zelich, 2005 - Joan Fontcuberta

Interview with Ana Finel Honigman, 2004 - Kutlug Ataman

Marriot Hotel Islamabad, 2008 - Sean SNYDER

Interview with Sven Lütticken, 2007 - Omer Fast

Interview with Alan Gilbert, 2002 - Walid Raad


Statement, 1987 - Craigie HORSFIELD

Statement, 1999 - Boris MIKHAILOV

Interview with Joe Penny, 2010 - Renzo Martens

Interview with Francisco Goldman, 2006 - Regina José Galindo

Hasan Elahi: Surveillance as Storytelling, 2011 - Barry CHUDAKOV

Ramallah, 15 November 2006, 2006 - Annemarie JACIR, آن ماري جاسر‎

Independence Day, 2006 - Emily JACIR

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