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Highlighting The Importance of Documentary Photography

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The importance of the photo or film in general comes from being included in the details of our daily life. In addition, the development of technology, digital image, and communications formed a revolution in the new century, and we can notice it via all the indispensable tools that surround us, which became equally important to all people regardless of their age.

Likewise, the importance of the image comes from reducing the time by conveying the news or the photographed event and understanding it within a short period of time (sometimes it may need seconds) comparing to the readable news.


The beginning of the documentation was through the primitive man’s innate awareness of documentation and learning to draw.

At the same time, it gave the news a new and attractive dimension through the vision and became a supporting element for the written news. Example (traditional news on official Arab TV).


Documentary Photography

The beginning of the documentation was through the primitive man’s innate awareness of documentation and learning to draw.  He began documenting his daily life through drawings on the walls of caves for life works such as hunting and other things.  In addition to the types of animals he found and the tools he uses in daily life even before he learns the language. These drawings were so important that they made it easier for archaeologists to document this period of time. (There were more than a thousand figures painted on the walls in one of the caves.)

After that, the ancient Egyptians and other peoples used drawing for the same purpose (despite the presence of language), which is to document the most important life events, such as religious rituals, feasts, wars, occasions, joys and sorrows, and professions such as agriculture, medicine, and others.

Also, documentation through fine art took another form and in an artistic style. For example that paintings that symbolize wars and historically important events such as expeditions (the example of Christopher Columbus, the discovery of America and the historical events that accompanied his exploration campaign, and many of these trips were documented by drawing), not to mention that the details within these paintings such as costumes, utensils, and furniture were indicative of the timeline and the lifestyle of that period.

Based on the above info, we can realize the importance of documentation. If photography had existed thousands of years ago, it would have been much easier for archaeologists to document and understand their discoveries, and it would have been easier as well to find answers to their questions.

Consequently, documentation gained great importance after the invention of the camera, whose main goal was to use it for documentation and I believe that this invention has greatly contributed to human development and science in all its forms. Moreover, it has greatly accelerated the creation of technical solutions for many inventions and discoveries.


Visual Documentation

Visual documentation has become an indispensable culture and life necessity. We can see it surrounding us and a part of our daily life practices and behaviors.

Previously, we had the culture of documentation through family documentation for events such as weddings, picnics, holidays, and children’s first day of school in school uniforms. But it has developed greatly recently as a result of technological advancement and the ease of use through mobile phones. It started to include more details and sometimes it reaches the point of obsession with photographing everything around them because they believe the importance of what they photograph.


The Importance of Visual Documentation:

The importance of visual documentation comes from its realism, impartiality, and sincerity. The documentary image or documentary film does not carry an opinion or orientation that reflects a certain point of view that can be exploited for its purpose. Even drama films can be used as a source for documentary purposes, where films often document real events that occurred in the same period in which the film was shot.

The greatest example of the importance of documentation is the Syrian revolution and the activists who document it on the ground. Since it is a dangerous global event, these pictures and documentaries were shown through the most important media stations around the world, which revealed the reality of the regime and its horrific crimes as well as ISIS.

Even the artistic image is an aesthetic document of a distinctive and different visual situation that tempted the artist to photograph it and share it. (Someone may say that the image can be forged. Yes it can, but this forgery can also be easily detected through special programs).


Purpose of The Documentation:

Of course, the purpose of the documentation comes through the keenness to preserve many important events and benefit from them on the human level, as they will be materials that can be used for development and progress, taking lessons, and reducing the occurrence of tragedies. The documentation can also be legal or criminal evidence that can be used to prevent the occurrence of many crimes, such as the crimes of the Syrian regime against the Syrians, which will sooner or later be condemned through the many documents collected that will lead it to its inevitable fate, God willing.

(Often, a photo can speak a thousand words, or sometimes in order not to bother the intellectuals, writers, and poets).


Kemal OGHLY

Head of Photography Dept. at the International Cultural Academy

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