Simple Documentary Photography can be Powerful


Apartment Interior, Berry Street; © Maris Rusis, 2013.

Apart from being a cluttered, untidy apartment, probably constructed in the early part of the twenty-first century; this is undoubtedly a fine piece of imagery suitable for future visual archaeology.   Ooh, and it is my apartment – shame, shame, shame.

A visit to my apartment by Tewantin based photographer Maris Rusis, to debate the meaning of photographic life, resulted in a series of documentary photographs being taken.  Firstly Rusis was keen to work with his 37mm Mamiya-Sekor lens, and then try out the newly constructed pop-up portrait studio on my front balcony.

There are many genres of documentary photography, ranging from my heroes of the photographic movement (Mathew Brady, Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and Robert Frank, to name just a few personal favourites) through that form of reportage that is losing some support with the demise of magazines specialising in displaying this form, to that which Rusis is a quiet expert.


Chez Poole, Maris, Ian and Louise; © Maris Rusis, 2013.

Visual archaeology has always had important place in the photographic milieu.  Consider the photographs of Gustave Le Gray – who took his first first daguerreotypes in 1847;   Le Gray’s earliest photographs were of banal and commonplace locations.  As were Robert Frank’s images which went on to become the book The Americans.

Rusis works in a deceptively simple style using analogue black and white materials, self-processed with deliberate care and printed with the skill of the technician that he is.  But it is his deliberate and obsessive attention to detail that will make each and every Rusis photograph a valuable addition to a collection.

On the back of each photograph, Rusis has placed an identifying stamp giving author provenance and usually a descriptor giving context.  It is this attention to detail that places immense value on each and every photograph produced. (…… and for the record the pork, the cabbage and potatoes were just as tasty as the photographs gifted to me).Berry_verso_blog

One thought on “Simple Documentary Photography can be Powerful

  1. There is a fine divide beyond which dispassionate documentary leads into iconography. Identification of subject, place, and time is a major business of photography but there’s more. Distilling significance from incidental details, interior decor, who’s at table, wine bottles empty and emptying, a computer screen on but ignored, all hint at the zeitgeist that prevails. A 19th century celebration of schweinhaxe and good company was not like this; a 22nd century celebration won’t be.

    It has been said that a photograph with ten thousand details is inferior to a painting with a hundred details; the painter having chosen the one hundred significant points that matter and abolished the rest as irrelevant visual trash. I hope Mamiya’s 180 degree fisheye lens, whether it sees too much or too little, argues against this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s