1. Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: A Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary Photography
Published: 01.06.2014
in the series Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary
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Hello world!

This is my first blog. I’m not a blogging person and I confess I’m feeling uneasy about the vulnerable improvisatory condition that blog writing involves, a kind of performative public conversation open to doubts and suppositions and maybe to banality :)), rather than solid demonstrative writing. But, anyway: let’s try it.

This blog takes informally, maybe perversely, the title of Immanuel Wallerstein’s recently published fourth volume of his landmark book series on the modern world-system. I will attempt to bring to discussion some ideas and intuitions concerning the postwar reframing of documentary photography as a liberal humanistic (or humanitarian?) discipline. I’ll come back to definitions of humanism further below.

This is a conversation on photographic historiography. Rather than a theoretical or philosophical discussion on the nature of documentary as a discourse and artistic idea (cf. John Grierson’s “documentary idea,” an expression I’m fond of), I propose a historical understanding of documentary practices in photography. I’m not interested in what documentary is, but in how it’s produced and functions in specific historical conjunctures.

My research on the Worker Photography Movement between the two World Wars brought me to the argument that the rise of documentary discourses in film and photography after 1926 resulted from the historical need to provide a visual representation of the working class and its new agency in an era of mass democracy and the new visual media culture. The expansion of public photographic spectacles such as film theaters, the new illustrated press, photographic and multimedia exhibitions (both avant-garde and propagandistic), the rise of advertising and publicity, etc. contributed to the technological conditions for the visual culture revolution of the mid-1920s. I say 1926 because it is when Grierson used the term “documentary” for the first time, as the classic historical accounts have well established. But also because 1926 is when the German communist journal AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) published a famous call to amateur worker readers to send in photographs showing their own living and working conditions, which is the official birth of the Worker Photography Movement in Germany and elsewhere. Furthermore, 1926 marks the founding of Sovetskoe Foto magazine, organ of both the Soviet-organized professional photojournalists and amateur worker photo correspondents.

1926 thus represents a double ideological impulse in the rise of the documentary as a new visual tool for the representation of the working class: the impulse from above, represented by Grierson and the British documentary movement, and the impulse from below, represented by the initially German-Soviet Worker Photography Movement. The impulse from above is the one that has dominated Anglo-American “modernist” historical narratives of the genealogy of the documentary genre, whose canon is to be found in Beaumont Newhall and whose patron saint is Lewis Hine; its culmination and greatest monument is the FSA. In such narratives, the documentarian is a mediator between the dispossessed subaltern classes and the state, and his/her role is to contribute to the improvement and inclusion of such dispossessed ones in a paternalistic welfare system – which means to contribute to re-distributive political reforms that expand social inclusion via laws, rights, and citizenship conditions for the poor. I call this impulse from above the liberal (or social democrat) one and it’s been long and classically criticized since the 1970s by the New Art History generation. John Tagg’s “disciplinary frame” epitomizes the Foucauldian argument concerning liberal documentary as governmental technology.

The impulse from below is the revolutionary one and is based on a disobedient, proletarian (counter-bourgeois) agency. Worker photography seeks a “hard, merciless light” against bourgeois paternalism. But the proletarian documentary experience was not free from inner contradictions (somewhat regressive aesthetic mechanisms persisted) and was short-lived. In the mid-thirties it was surpassed by both the political counter-revolution (rise of fascist regimes, Popular Front alliances, wars…) and by the general expansion of innovative mainstream visual media, with Life magazine as the most successful public photographic space since 1936.

The prewar revolutionary documentary impulse persisted after World War II but in precarious, ephemeral conditions. The war trauma and Cold War cultural geopolitics involved a post-revolutionary condition and a new centrist liberal immanence of reconciliatory discourses in the West, whose best examples are Life magazine again and of course The Family of Man exhibition. These have eclipsed other potentially less reconciliatory experiments. In the late 1940s and very early 1950s, in Italy, Neorealism was an artistic experiment for the renovation of the alliance between avant-garde realism and revolutionary politics. To some extent, it can be read as a renovation of the proletarian documentary and it’s probably the most sophisticated and important documentary project of the period, at least until the 1970s (even if it remains quite unread in hegemonic Anglo-American photography histories). Anthropologist Ernesto de Martino made various field trips to southern Italy with photographers like Franco Pinna. Following Antonio Gramsci’s theses on folklore as subaltern forms of historicity, resistance, and liberation, rather than as remnants or survivals of a primitive, ahistorical world, de Martino proposed the concept of “progressive folklore” in his study of magic rituals. The materialist photo-iconography of rural communities produced in de Martino’s field trips complexify the somewhat Manichean, industrial, and metropolitan simplicity of pre-war Worker Photography representations of working class subjectivities.

Ok. At this point of the conversation I need to bring in some methodological considerations on the concept of humanism and the sort of periodization problems involved in my account.

Needless to say, humanism is a very complex concept including a multiplicity of meanings. It has both reactionary and progressive connotations. For the specific debate on postwar photography here, I think the key idea is about the representation of the human condition, the fixation on the “new images of man.” That is, representations of the human figure and body under a post-traumatic experience, namely war, bombings, killings, camps, dead bodies, etc. The war iconography of mass victims that proliferated in illustrated magazines is a key source of such existentialist visual rhetoric. That’s why I think we can relate this kind of iconography to a catastrophic “state of exception” and that’s why the FSA became, in retrospect, the source reference. In The Bitter Years, his farewell exhibition at MOMA in 1962, Steichen quite aptly synthesized the postwar reframing of the FSA experience. With this I mean he revisited the FSA archive after the traumatic experience of war and found an iconographic source: the victims of the Depression appeared as the anticipation of the victims of the war. That’s why I say that the FSA is a retrospective canonic influence. As all archives, the FSA allows many interpretations and Steichen’s one was, I think, the most successful in terms of representing the Cold War imagination/ideology in the West. Also Steichen had the institutions for making such interpretation a hegemonic one. Liberal photographic humanism is institutional discourse; it represents the postwar alliance between capital and labor forces in the capitalist part of the world. The humanism articulated in The Family of Man is the voice of the state and its institutions for the production of a transnational liberal public sphere.

You may say this is not a proper reframing, but rather the erasure of the double (or multiple) origin of documentary discourse in the 1920s. If, in the prewar era, documentary rises from various ideologies in struggle or conflict, in the postwar era there is only liberalism.

In terms of periodization, when does the postwar period actually end? My argument is that the break with liberal humanist immanence in documentary photography happened in the mid-1970s with (what I refer to above) as the New Art History generation – e.g., John Tagg, Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, Jo Spence, etc. But its cultural conditions began to take shape in the mid-1960s, with the “new social landscape” photographic discourses led by Nathan Lyons and his followers. Accepting that all periodization is a compromise, broadly speaking the humanist period corresponds to Steichen’s tenure at MOMA. Steichen is the great hero-villain in this history, not only because of The Family of Man, but also because of his World War II exhibitions Road to Victory and Power in the Pacific, and his late 1962 FSA exhibition, just mentioned, all of them radical and brilliant examples of a sophisticated understanding of the photographic exhibition as a mental space, following the great modernist innovations of the late 1920s.

Despite all this, the geography of the narrative I bring here is not just Anglo-American. More precisely, the focus on Anglo-American hegemonic models involves a critical approach. In this respect I think Serge Guilbaut’s account of the postwar displacement of the center of the avant-garde from Paris to New York is useful. What we need to study are the shadow areas that canonized monuments such as The Family of Man have produced.

11 comment(s)
antonella russo
Posted 02.06.2014 at 20:50

Dear Jorge!
Thank you for your blog and for choosing a subject which I deem to be one of the most engaging and thought-provoking topics in the historiography of photography and which makes us reflect on the conditions of documentary photography today.
I’d like to supplement your discourse on documentary photography as it developed in Italy and elaborate on photographic Neorealism, a relatively little known category -- which began to be posited in my country only by the end of the 1990s --- and whose periodization I tried to articulate in my recent writings.
Let’s start from the beginning of your discussion.
1.I fully agree with you that documentary photography is a definition that Beaumont Newhall, who was well aware of the history of cinema which he also taught, wished to link with Grierson’s ideas of documentary with social and political underpinnings – rather than, say, Flaherty’s heroic documentary which, by the way, was very popular in Italy in the 1930s. It was Grierson’s photo-documents that provided representations of the working classes and working conditions, initially in Germany, as well as in the Soviet Union and United Kingdom as you convincingly wrote in your Worker Photography Movement writings.
Let me supplement and somewhat complicate matters. In Italy the 1920s and 1930s photographic representation of the (working) masses circulated mostly through Fascist propaganda imagery. Yet already by the early 1930s some proto-Neorealist images began to appear in avant-garde literary magazines and journals such as “L’Italiano” and “Omnibus “ edited by ultraconservative Leo Longanesi, which showed laconic sorrowful images of people and places, and by the end of that decade future film-maker Alberto Lattuada began to portray the Milanese outskirts with its suburban poors which he later published in the Occhio Quadrato (1941) photobook. Thus photographic Neorealism was partly a contribution of “frondist” and photographers who worked in the shadows resisting Mussolini’s regime and later in the 1940s developed fully in “Il Politecnico” (1945-1947) edited by writer Elio Vittorini, Communist writer and enthusiastic promoter of FSA documentary photography in Italy.
2.Secondly I would like to point out that Neorealist/documentary photography, circulated mostly through the post –1945 photo-texts, which apart from sophisticated elaborations of photo-narrations by Luigi Crocenzi—were photoreportages by the Communist photographers Franco Pinna, Mario Caio Garrubba, Ando Gilardi , among others, of the so called “Misery tour” in the South of Italy which circulated in “Vie Nuove”, illustrated weekly published by the Italian Communist Party.
An impulse to document the poverty of Southern Italy and the medieval working conditions of peasants and miners ran through the 1950s photoreportages and it was partially and some what indirectly promoted internationally by Henri Cartier Bresson and David Seymour’s Magnum “humanist “photodocumentary.
Early on in the 1950s the anthropologist Ernesto De Martino realized the danger of a “humanitarian Magnum turn” in the representation of Southern Italy. His ethnographic photographic expeditions in Lucania, Calabria and Apulia aimed at contrasting an abstract humanism in Neorealism by producing “heuristic documents” of the magic rituals representing the resistance of a peasant culture actively engaged in overcoming the “terror of the crisis of their presence and disintegration of their own history”.
4.As far as a periodization of the liberal photographic humanism of the FSA imagery, reinforced by The Family of Man, I would like to posit that –as far as Italy is concerned, it lasted until the late 1950s, when Mario Carrieri published his photobook Milano, Italia (1959) and Pasolini denounced the Social Democratic humanitarian turn in Neorealism, which he declared unable to catch the deep cultural changes Italy was undergoing due to the advent of the consumer society.
Three years before the release of Accattone (1961), the poet published a series of photoreportages in Vie Nuove on shanty villages in the Roman outskirts in which its people were portrayed as joyfully and innocently vicious, rather than good , naïve and humble thus just the opposite of the FSA imagery .
The exhaustion of Neorealism as an outmoded art/photography/film movement was largely due to the fact that, as Zavattini put it, it had not accomplished the moral and cultural revolution it announced and had already by the late 1940s turned into a sort of left-wing dogma.

If I have indulged and insisted on Italian Neorealism is to respond to your call for a historiography that includes new geography of narratives one which can include new dialectical dimensions and tensions.

François Brunet
Posted 02.06.2014 at 21:08

Hello Jorge, many thanks for this post, and I tend to agree with Antonella Russo that this is one of the most provoking areas of historiography today. I liked your comments on Steichen especially. I noticed that you talk about the "Anglo-American" account but there is not much Anglo in it except for Grierson. I wonder how you would view, for the postwar / 1960s period, the initiatives of, broadly speaking, British cultural marxism, and early cultural studies, and how — even if they don't do any history of documentary — some associated photo practices embody "committed" forms of documentary.

Jorge Ribalta
Posted 03.06.2014 at 14:11

Thanks François! The second post will be more "Anglo", hopefully. I'm not sure how to exactly read what you call "British cultural marxism". But anyway I was willing to have a last post in this blog dealing with what I will call "After Liberalism" (following Wallerstein's path again). I think that British left scenes of the 1970s, including Jo Spence-Terry Dennett, Camerawork magazine, the Side Gallery, John Tagg, Victor Burgin, Stuart Hall, just to mention a few, were crucial in the cultural reframing of documentary. This is what I was calling the New Art History, which, as all labels, may not be satisfactory enough. They represent the break with the hegemony of postwar humanism. This is the subject for the closing of this debate and I'd rather not anticipate too much here in order not to be reiterative. But I'm not sure if I'm getting you correctly...

Stephanie Schwartz
Posted 04.06.2014 at 11:49

Hi Jorge,

Thanks for kicking off the conversation. As François noted, your comments about Steichen's final MoMA exhibition are very compelling, if only as a way to shift the conversation away from the "Family of Man." I wanted to take this up in relation to your point about the focus of your blog, which, as you note, is less concerned with defining documentary than with offering some insight into its status as a historical discourse. This is a crucial distinction and one that is not often noted -- explicitly. In this regard, how do you take Steichen's claim in the opening pages of the short text he penned for "The Bitter Years" that now is the time to be reminded that Depression was one of America's "victorious hours"? If the exhibition argued, as you are right to note, that the victims of the Depression anticipate the victims of the war, doesn't it also provide another temporality or another historical discourse on documentary--namely, one in which "the past is past"? This temporality, the break with the past, opens up a range of questions about what happens in the 1970s to the discourse on documentary, especially in relation to Martha Rosler's "not yet."

Jorge Ribalta
Posted 04.06.2014 at 12:06

François, I forgot: please also note my use of the term Anglo-American as opposed to Latin-American. America is too big, you know...

Abigail Solomon-Godeau
Posted 06.06.2014 at 10:29

Dear Jorge,
The task of rewriting, revising, and rethinking the now-potted histories of documentary photography, including its Anglo-American biases (cf., Antonella Russo and Sarah James), and absurd canonical succession, is both necessary and belated. But I have two questions about your general argument. "Worker Photography" is obviously some kind of alternative to the liberal humanist approaches sanctified by Newall and his progeny. But as you yourself indicate, its history was short and from the little I have seen of it, it doesn't appear to be vastly different than more mainstream approaches, And sometimes, as you yourself remark, even more formally conservative. Thus, its status for progressives nowadays as a lamented road-not-taken seems to lie with the fact that it was made by workers who were not professional photographers, thus leaving open the question of the actual effects of such practice, although in no country did it have more than a brief history. And in relation to Antonella Russo's post, I wonder if it is legitimate to place photography and film within the same framework, given, among other things, that the experience of film is collective, temporal, and narratively-based. (And certainly anthropological documentation must be separated from worker-based practice, no?)
Second, reading the "revival" of FSA photography by Steichen in the postwar period as surrogates for the dead of the war and the holocaust seems not very convincing. For surely among the most important ideologically informed "work" of American postwar photographic culture was to refigure masculinity (warriors now become wage-earning suburban husbands and fathers), recast femininity (no more Rosie the riveter making airplane parts) and "manage" the anxieties of the cold war and the threat of nuclear extinction. In these senses, The Family of Man, as Allen Sekula observed, labors, to produce the universal patriarchal family as the glue of a mythic universal humanity. And the revival of the FSA photographs in The Bitter Years (but only a tiny part of its vast archive was then, or now, much represented) was about the "worthy" poor, now seen as a comfortably "historical," the triumph over adversity, and the "success" of liberal reforms.
In any case, it seems to me that any rethinking of documentary production, anywhere and at any time, needs consider ideologies of gender as they are manifested in modes of photography that profess to deal with social and political realities. To sever postwar photographic manifestations from changed paradigms of gender is to miss one of central tasks of cold war liberalism.

Stephanie Schwartz
Posted 06.06.2014 at 17:18

Why shouldn't we think photography with film? Many photographers working in the 1930s and 1940s worked on, with or through film. We can turn to the work of Paul Strand, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Bourke-White, Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott. These are just the Americans. Strand goes so far as to suggest that he would not have produced the kinds of books he produced if he had not worked in film. But my larger point might be, and one I was suggesting in my earlier post, is that we need to stop thinking retrospectively, with a definition of photography that does not take into account how the medium was thought in the 1930s. It was thought on the page, in the book, on the wall and through film. We have institutionalized it otherwise and we have privileged the photograph.

Sarah James
Posted 06.06.2014 at 17:22

Hi Jorge,

I'd like to respond to your post, and also to Abigail's comments. I think the weight that you place on the historicity and historiography of documentary practices is absolutely right - and it is no surprise that the best theoretical interventions in the documentary genre in the 1970s (eg Sekula) went hand in hand with working through the medium's history. Perversely more recent preoccupations with deconstructing documentary's claims for objectivity, realism, truth, universalism etc have too often erased the historical conditions of the medium.

I find your mobilisation of the Worker Photography movement - and the cold war politics of its marginalisation - so compelling because my work on postwar documentary has attempted to decentre the hegemony of Anglo-American photo theory and practice, by looking East - to the other side of the Iron Curtain. Thus your construction of a liberal/revolutionary dialectic from above and below makes perfect sense to me. However, I think the question of postwar humanism and its ideological manoeuvers are much more complex than simply being tied to the desire to represent the new man. I think what was arguably even more urgent in this postwar moment was the battle over photography's universal claims. This is exactly because both communist and capitalist ideologies shared this utopian goal - of totalising universalism.

When we look East, we find many compelling postwar critiques of liberal, sentimental, bourgeois humanist photography and attempts to engage in the more radical possibilities for collectivised visions. For example, in East Germany the State ultimately failed to rehabilitate Worker Photography, but a body of Marxist-Leninist photo-theory emerged in the GDR that attempted to grapple with documentary's universalism, pedagogy, naturalism etc from the persepctive of class consciousness and collectivity. This has remained untouched by mainstream Anglo-American photo-theory.

Equally, in deconstructing the liberal mobilisation of humanist photography to represent new man - and transnational capitalist man at that - I think it is easy to miss other attempts in the 50s and 60s to produce radical and progressive conceptions of agency and humanism that were entirely counter to both the poststructuralist critique of the subject and the liberal bourgeois West's 'new man'. I am thinking about the decolonized African nations, and Fanon, as well as Sarte - who explicitly engages with the possibilities of humanist documentary and its nominalism/naturalism writing on Cartier-Bresson's images of China on the brink of revolution.

In response to your response, Abigail, I think that you greatly underestimate the legacies of Worker Photography - as Jorge has made clear elsewhere, one very important reengagement with the movement was undertaken in Britain in the 1970s by Jo Spence and Terry Dennett, who, like Sekula, were engaged in a project which simultaneously historicised and theorised the medium, but who, unlike Sekula, based their efforts in collectivising practice, and the importance of pedagogy - working with community groups and unions. Clearly gender could not be more central to Spence's practice - just think of 'Who's Holding the Baby (1978), and the Women and Work project undertaken with the Hackney Flashers, or Remodelling Photo History (1982) - which is entirely why it makes little sense - given the priority Jorge has granted to Spence - to suggest his project might sever postwar photographic manifestations from changed paradigms of gender.

antonella russo
Posted 07.06.2014 at 19:42

Dear Abigail, thank you for your remarks.
I just would like to clarify that I tried to question “photographic neorealism” as a category which promotes the subsumption of (little known/conceptualized ) post -1945 Italian photography to universally well known Neorealist movies ( such as Hollywood Academy awarded Zavattini-De Sica’s “Sciuscià” or “Bicycle Thieves” ) a category which still circulates in official Histories of Italian Photography since the 1970s, resumed in exhibitions and catalogues throught the 1990s”, and in travelling shows more recently.
I tried to to argue instead that A) there are many other less-discussed developments in Italian photography of post 1945 years deserving attention and B) I believe that what is known as Neorealist photography is a reinvention of the 1930s (mainly “Life”) photo-texts in the form of “story boards“ or “photo- chronicles” or else “photo-documentaries” , all based on subjects of post World- War -II Italian public life and of social concerns , in many cases shared with neorealist movies (and sometimes used to construct plots as in the case of “Roma città aperta” , and “Paisà” for instance) circulating in literary and cinema magazines

I think that yes, it was legittimate to think about the central issue of “Neorealist photo text” and elaborating not only on photography theory but also on literary and especially film theory . Moreover many (proto-neorealist) photoessays were produced by film makers ( Alberto Lattuada,Luigi Comencini ) and Cesare Zavattini worked as photoeditor and wrote captions for illustrated weekly much earlier than 1955 when he co-edit Un Paese with Paul Strand and these are just a few examples.
Also Franco Pinna photographer of two of the three De Martino ‘s anthoropological “expeditions” in the South of Italy began as a documentary film maker.
To me Pinna ‘s anthroplogical work exemplifies the Gramscian idea of the intellectual committed (intellettuale organico) to / and putting his photography at the service of working class in this case peasant class for he actively engaged himself in representing a Southern Italy peasant civilitation on the verge of its disappearance

Abigail Solomon-Godeau
Posted 07.06.2014 at 21:49

Dear Sarah and Stephanie,
I must say that I never thought of Jo Spence and Terry Dennett as falling under the rubric of "worker photography," nor for that matter, would I have identified Sekula's photographic work of the 1970s with these practices of the 1920s and '30s. I hope I am not confusing categories here, but I always assumed "worker photography" to be a practice precisely not made by artists, professional photographers or documentarians. This doesn't mean that Sekula et al were not aware of, inspired by, or otherwise influenced by these historical practices, but perhaps the definition of this kind of photographic work is now given a broader sense then I assumed. However, it does seem to me that Spence's work, like those of the Hackney Flashers, was a direct outgrowth of the women's movement, although this is not to minimize its other progressive political orientation. What I meant to emphasize in my comments was the necessity of thinking documentary practice in all its historical, geographical, and contemporary manifestations in relation to issues of gender and its various ideologies and incarnations. This has been often a marginal or entirely absent consideration in the literature, as struck me in reading Jorge's discussion of Steichen's exhibitions.

Jorge Ribalta
Posted 10.06.2014 at 13:01

Ok, a lot of issues in the discussion. I will comment on some only. Thanks everybody for making this discussion so lively!

Concerning the temporality issues raised by Stephanie, I will just add a comment. We have discussed elsewhere how “The Bitter Years” could be seen retrospectively as "postmodern", I mean as an anticipation of the seventies’ critical reception of the modernist myths, and how Roy Stryker himself felt he needed to defend the FSA's original essence in response to what he saw as a Steichen's too negative or apocalyptic interpretation of the FSA archive. That's how he justified his book "In this Proud Land" in the early seventies. But of course Steichen was a man of the thirties and he was one of the first to write on the FSA and contribute to the dissemination of the documentary idea in the prewar's photographic culture. In that respect I agree that there's a long and complex temporality in his work, which is precisely what allows us interpretations of how he embodies the progressive ideas of its time, not only the reactionary or "disciplinary" ones.

Concerning Abigail's comments on worker photography and gender. First, the Worker Photography movement represents not merely a project of amateur photography made by workers, but it's rather a complex and heterogeneous international network in which many agents (art, media, politics) participate, even if it's articulated around the figure or imaginary of the "worker-correspondent". The problem is that it is impossible to exactly put the border between amateur and professional activity in Worker Photography. Erika Wolf argues that Soviet Worker Photography was a professional activity. But it is also true that in the German organizations, photographers that started as amateurs became professionals since they assumed organizational and publishing activities. The photographic activity was instrumental to political activity. Taking too literally the issue of worker identity finally takes us to an ontological or metaphysical discussion that I find counterproductive. I’m not seeking to replace one mythology by another one. My perception is that the opposition proletarian-bourgeois lacked any essence, was relational. I mean proletarian meant essentially a counter-discourse, a counter-hegemony. I think we need a kind of contemporary micro-political understanding of worker identity in this context. To me, the study on Worker Photography operates as a kind of self-critique that makes visible the limits and contradictions involved in the epistemic categories such as author, oeuvre, etc. that we are forced to use in order to produce a historiographic discourse. It also, and importantly, visibilizes the struggles and antagonism involved in historiographic production. But the history of Worker photography is not merely meta-history. I see my work on Worker Photography as a continuation of what some people in the seventies started, like Spence and Dennett, and bringing some level of self-critique into the institutional framework.

It is true that gender issues in the thirties’ Worker photography circles were secondary, since the oppositional or revolutionary political subjectivity was articulated around class. But it is also true that gender and colonial issues were discussed in the magazine AIZ in an extremely progressive way, even if they were subsumed into a kind of (false) genderless class immanence. I will not deny that men dominated the activity in the prewar Worker Photography circles. Nevertheless, as Sarah points, feminism was pivotal in the seventies’ reframing of the Worker Photography experience, as it was in all progressive and micro-political discourses on visuality emerging at the time. The reference to Spence and Dennett is key here. But also to Martha Rosler, who incorporated the Worker photography experience reference in her "In, around..." essay. Gender and post-coloniality had a discursive centrality in the seventies that it didn’t have in the thirties.

The erasure of Worker photography in the histories of the prewar rise of documentary discourse has been parallel to the erasure of the renewed awareness of the Worker photography experience in the seventies. It’s little known that there was a second wave Worker Photography in the seventies in Western Germany. Also the awareness of historical Worker Photography was central in politicized documentary circles in Britain, particularly around the important magazine "Camerawork". This tends to be forgotten or overlooked. So, both in the thirties and in the seventies (the two key moments in the production of documentary discourse in the 20th century), the issue of Worker Photography has been central. By saying this I don’t mean that this was THE only central idea, but rather that the historical project of an emancipated self-representation of insurgent subjectivities is a constitutive aspect for a renewed and complex genealogy of the documentary idea.

Concerning film and photography, I believe that a genealogy of the documentary idea cannot avoid dealing with both, in spite that your remarks about their different modes of production may be right. But on this point I agree with Stephanie on the need of a history of photography that includes its different media "embodiments". Also, my personal research experience is that some of the most relevant literature on the documentary idea has been produced less in photography and more in film and anthropology.

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