Research: Documentary Photo Stories

Today, I decided to look more specifically at some of the points of reference Moira cited for potential visual inspiration for my own photo story.

I have already explored photo stories through both the Guardian and National Geographic, however, I have yet to look more specifically at Liberation, the Independent and Foto 8.

I have found at least one example from each of these from which to begin develop ideas about documentary images.

The first example I have chosen to focus upon is based upon the subject of fracking, which is proving to be an international environmental topic of controversy and discussion.

Maud Delaflotte captures the essence of the photo story through a series of desolate environmental landscapes and portraits of people living and working in areas of North Dakota.

Below the main article, we are presented with a slideshow which uses stills and audio together to create this atmosphere of uncertainty and struggle amongst the residents and their surroundings. They follow a wide format approach and offer a wealth of detail for their environments.

An interesting factor is also the choice of music, nationally relevant (American Blues) and successful in its ability to capture the bleak and at times isolated theme framed within the images themselves.

Fracking, North Dakota by Maud Delaflotte

22 Nov 13

Fracking Maud Delaflotte

In the United States, shale gas is the new gold. And Williston, North Dakota, is the new Klondike. The population of this tiny, isolated city has doubled in less than two years and now numbers more than 20.000. Despite the high cost of living and inhospitable climate, many are making their way here attracted by the high salaries being offered. The local landowners too are enjoying high payouts from the extraction of gas located under their properties.

The women who you see in my photographs have either been born locally or have migrated here, with families, or alone, to earn a dollar, or three, and to build a better life for themselves.

With the boom in hydraulic fracturing technology, commonly known as fracking, the US could attain its golden goal of energy independence. But environmentalists are speaking out and slowly making their voices heard. As far as they are concerned supplies, resources and profits have been overstated whilst the environmental risks have been at best underestimated and at worst blatantly ignored.

What if this newly discovered, magic answer to a seemingly endless supply of fuel for energy hungry America is flawed? What if this new Eldorado is only a passing mirage?  And what if the yellow brick road that seems to run through Williston today ultimately paves the way back to poverty and environmental desolation?

About the Photographer
Maud Delaflotte started her career as a photographer with the press digital laboratory at «L’Oeil Public» later becoming a photojournalist herself with the intention of exploring and investigating her own subjects through photography. Since 2006, Delaflotte has concentrated her attention on closed communities and isolated regions or social classes. Her photograph has led her to variety of different locations, such as a circus, a refuge for migrants in Paris and the world inhabited by the mysterious aristocracy.  Delaflotte’s reports are regularly published in the French press, through her agency, Zoko Productions.

My next example comes from the Independent.

This is another example of an environmental photo story based specifically around fisheries in Greece which are helping them recover from their economic downfall.

The objective of this series is to document the activities which occur in these fish farms and the cycle in which its workers follow in order to be productive.

Visually, it follows a fairly conventional approach to a photo story, featuring environmental portraits and detail shots of the lifestyles of the people and actions involved.


Stavroula Chasandra, an ichthyologist of Selonda fish farming company holds a glass container with newborn sea bass at a hatchery in Psachna village on Evia island, Greece


Plastic cans containing plankton are seen inside a hatchery of Selonda fish farming company in Psachna village on Evia island about 110 km (68 miles) northeast of Athens


A worker of Selonda fish farming company repairs fishnets at a beach near Sofiko village, Greece


Workers fill thermal-insulated boxes with fish onboard a floating platform at a fish farm of Selonda company near Sofiko village, Greece

My final example is from Liberation.,99872?page=2

The series offers a very different level of appeal and visual approach to my other examples in that its subject is often focused purely upon its environment with no physical evidence of human interaction.

Helene Schmitz aims to develop upon the relationship between man and nature, focusing in particular upon an invasive species of plant from Japan that was introduced to American in the 19th Century.

Helen Schmitz

Helen Schmitz-text

This is an example how one seemingly insignificant act of human interference can have greater long term repercussions, an aspect that I wish to convey within my own series in regards to water abstraction and thus the importance of maintenance and conservation.

Helen Schmitz-2

Visually, the photographs themselves document a definitive representation of a specific topic but speak of broader issues as a result. Although simple in their approach, I believe the series offers an effective approach when speaking of nature, heritage and history.

Helen Schmitz-3

A rather unusual aspect of this work this the continued transition from black & white to colour, both of which offer quite different visual appeals.

Unlike the two previous examples, the series also occasionally changes format depending on its subject matter, mostly using 8×10 but sometimes using a more panoramic frame to emphasise scale.

To conclude, I believe this area of research has allowed to start to consider the visual approaches, scale and formats of the contemporary environmental picture story.


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