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September 01, 2004

Photojournalism, Portraiture, Storytelling and American Polaroids

Andrew Buurman is the kind of old-school photojournalist I like: modest but penetrating style, with an assured way of drawing out details and insight from a variety of situations, without hitting the viewer over the head with the point he's trying to make or with flashy technique. He is most well known for his excellent (and award-winning series) Serpentine Swimming Club:

"The Swimming Club are a tribe and I wanted to show them in an almost anthropological way reminiscent of the formal nineteenth century portraits that documented race and social, groups. They have a dress, a look that distinguishes them.. Swimming trunks, goggles and hats are also cheap and utilitarian and these pictures are almost the opposite of formal painted portraits, which by their dress and environment categorise the subject. The club includes a Member of Parliament, a teacher and a scalper, but these photographs make them indistinguishable."


Andrew Buurman image, from Serpentine Swimming Club

Beyond the Swimming Club, many of Buurman's other stories are worth looking at: I thought Signs, about the people who hold advertising boards on busy streets, was clever, and I also liked "Jumble Sale", about people and their purchases from (what I assume) is the equivalent of a yard sale or thrift store sale.

* Liam Sharp is a Canadian commercial photographer with the standard array of advertising and editorial shots, but he also has interesting portraits from southern Ethiopia, specifically documenting the influence of guns in the conflicts there. His Avedon styled portraits are the ones that caught my attention as being particularly chilling, though the whole folder is worth a look, even though the general image quality on the website is not nearly as good as what I've seen of his work in magazines (and for that matter, on other photographers' websites).


Liam Sharp image

* Natalie Schonfeld is another Canadian with a good mix of black and white and color photodocumentary projects on her website. I'm surprised I haven't run into more projects that use cross processing, as Schonfeld's La Mar project (about fishermen on the western coast of Venezuela) does. The project I found most interesting was Tueri: A Look Within, which uses a more impressionistic method of storytelling:

"In contrast to the straight photo documentary stream of photography this body of work is not particular to a certain group of people, a certain faith or a specific space. It is more about the condition of being, about the relationship between the individual experience and the collective, rather than simply the individual. We are conscious of being in relation to something else."


Natalie Schonfeld image, from "Tueri" series

* Finally, not technically photojournalism, but clever and funny storytelling regardless: Helsinki based photographer Mark Maher's American Polaroids. Sometimes it seems a bit too clever and obvious, but as a series, this accumulation of details and kitsch, combined with that inimitable Polaroid palette, is really good stuff.


"Military Surplus Madonna" Mark Maher image

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Please see my comment/inquiry posted in repsonse to your piece about Nan Goldin in July.

Many Thanks,

Posted by: Polly at Sep 4, 2004 3:30:45 AM