In this comparative text, I will be looking at two documentary photographers, David Moore and Alex Webb. I want to look deep into their work to understand the reasoning and subliminal messages they are trying to convey, whilst also looking at the technical aspects such as camera use and comparing the photographer’s similarities and differences. Both photographers have inspired me massively in this project, as they both photograph in the same way that I want to. I also feel that my previous work relates more to the work of these documentary photographers. Documentary photography is powerful as images can strongly tell stories of what is happening all over the world, also, text accompanying can make an image even stronger, for example, in an editorial. Photo essays and monographs are also a popular format of documenting photographic work.
David Moore is a British documentary photographer who has exhibited and published internationally. The book of ‘Pictures from the Real World. Colour Photographs from 1987-88’, a documentary series of family life on a council estate in Derby, is what initially drew me to the photographer. Moore exposes 80s working-class England peers behind closed doors to capture a community indelibly marked by Margaret Thatcher. Moore’s work in Derby, to me, is extremely powerful as it truly represents the poor living and social difficulties of Thatcher’s Britain. Without consciously relating the ex-priminister to the book, or displaying an image of her, she haunts it all the same. Moore directly captures the under-class in a distinctly recogniseable way, his use of film (it might even be disposable, however, I am struggling to find out what he uses) adds an authenticity whilst also directly suiting the imperfections of the subject matter. Also, his mysterious flash photography somehow creates its own darkness. Black edges and margins tend to form a border around its pictures, void like recesses of seemingly infinite space and depth which subjects are singled out and frozen for a split second. This deliberate negative spacing creates so much depth in the images whilst adding to the dark underside and negative suggestiveness of the subject matters.
The second photographer I have looked at is American documentary photographer, Alex Webb. Webb is a magnum photographer that has photographed all over the world. His monograph image of the Mexicans being arrested on the border American border is what drew me to the photographer. This image has a powerful, surreal and cinematic effect. Simply from the use of strong saturated colours and clinching the decisive moment. He freezes memorable moments in time and writes a simple caption, yet the image leads your mind to thinking so many different things. Why is there a helicopter? Who are these people? Why are they being arrested? Where will they go? And the most important one to me personally, how did Webb manage to be there at this specific, momentous time? All of these kind of questions that run through my head when studying Webb’s images are what attract me to his work, and what also what I want people to feel when looking at my own. Webb is famous for his documentation of Monographs; his work is highly informative and suggestive.
"I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner."
The initial similarity in both photographers work is their creative ability with camera work. Despite being clear-cut documentary photographers, there artistic creativity almost leads them into the Fine Art style of photography, in a positive way. For example, the strange angles and technical use of Moore’s work is highly distinctive. Whilst Webb’s is as well, packed with powerful uses of natural lighting to strangely light scenarios. Both of these factors make the photographers far more interesting that many documentary photographers. It is clear that both photographers think about these factors carefully, not left to chance. Moore’s tendency to photograph things from awkward angles and perspectives make the imagery communicate with the artist more. Webb’s photos are almost like movie stills as they are generally packed with drama, this is clear in the image of the Mexicans on the border. Another key similarity in both photographers work which I mentioned earlier about Webb, is their ability to capture the decisive moment. Both photographers practice an opportunist style, and kind of seem to always be in the right place at the right time. However, it is so clear how they are both naturally so accomplished at composing the structure of the image to best portray the scenario. Moore exercises awkward and unnerving angles and perspectives to mimic the strange normalities of deprived Britain, whilst Webb composes his shots with a standard lens view of how a human eye would see the situation, yet the realistic scenario becomes surreal in the way it is shot.
Both photographers are true genius’ of recording honest interpretations of places in the world at pivatol moments in time. There creativity in there camera work is made possible by there decisions to document specific places and people. One key difference in there work is the scale of story, for example in these two images, Webb highlights key national issues, for example the Mexican/American border, which is a mamoth story with which everyone knows about. However, Moore take a more underground approach and directs himself at the nitty gritty unknown social conditions that widely go un noticed. For example, his shoot in Derby opened a world which would never have been seen by the rest of the world, similar to the work of Robert Frank, when he documented ‘The Americans’. This kind of work which highlights social inequalities in the world enables us a viewers to see what is actually happening. If we were without these photographers, we’d be left to a lot of fabricated truth about the world through media, this is why they are so important.