Aaron Siskind
[Photographer, b. 1903, New York, d. 1991, Providence, Rhode Island.]

 To me documentary photography means making a picture so that the viewer doesn’t think about the man who made the picture. 

Walker Evans
[Photographer, b. 1903, St. Louis, Missouri, d. 1975, New Haven, Connecticut.]

 When you say “documentary,” you have to have a sophisticated ear to receive that word. It should be documentary style, because documentary is police photography of a scene and a murder ... that’s a real document. You see, art is really useless, and a document has use. And therefore, art is never a document, but it can adopt that style. I do it. I’m called a documentary photographer. But that presupposes a quite subtle knowledge of this distinction. 

Dorothea Lange
[Photographer, b. 1895, Hoboken, New Jersey, d. 1965, San Francisco.]

 For me documentary photography is less a matter of subject and more a matter of approach. The important thing is not what’s photographed but how... My own approach is based on three considerations. First—hands off! Whatever I photograph, I do not molest or tamper with or arrange. Second—a sense of place. Whatever I photograph, I try to picture as part of its surroundings, as having roots. Third—a sense of time. Whatever I photograph, I try to show as having its position in the past or in the present. 

Allan Sekula
[Photographer, writer, and theorist, b. 1951, Erie, Pennsylvania, d. 2013, Los Angeles.]

 A truly critical social documentary will frame the crime, the trial, and the system of justice and its official myths. Artists working toward this end may or may not produce images that are theatrical and overtly contrived, they may or may not present texts like fiction. Social truth is something other than a manner of convincing style. 

Robert Frank
[Photographer and filmmaker, b. 1924, Zürich, Switzerland, lives in Mabou, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, and New York.]

 The truth is somewhere between the documentary and the fictional, and that is what I try to show. What is real one moment has become imaginary the next. You believe what you see now, and the next second you don’t anymore. 

Margaret Bourke-White
[Photographer, b. 1904, New York, d. 1971, Darien, Connecticut.]

 The sights I have just seen [at Buchenwald] are so unbelievable that I don’t think I’ll believe them myself until I’ve seen the photographs... 

Martha Rosler
[Artist, b. 1943, Brooklyn, New York, lives in New York.]

 The exposé, the compassion and outrage, of documentary fueled by the dedication to reform has shaded over into combinations of exoticism, tourism, voyeurism, psychologism and metaphysics, trophy hunting—and careerism. 

James Nachtwey
[Photographer, b. 1948, Syracuse, New York, lives in New York.]

 The flow of reality has contours and dimensions much like the flow of a river. The characteristics of the current depend on the channel, whether it is a product of history or geology. Documentary photography has similar properties. The images I create are a confluence of what is in front of me and what is inside of me. They are objective and subjective at the same time, and they must be seen that way by the viewer in order to be convincing. 
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