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Documentary Expression and Thirties America - Essay Example

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In his book Documentary Expression and Thirties, William Stott offers a definition of documentary style and considers two important variants: the objective and factual account of events and the alternative which relies more on human issues than objectivity…
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Documentary Expression and Thirties America
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Download file to see previous pages In the thirties the style of social documentary became popular, and was described as increasing the knowledge of public facts while sharpening it with feeling. Two notable exponents of this style were considered, both of whom employed the presentation of dramatic, and sometimes over emphasized, photographs accompanied by a written commentary. The distinction between art and photography and whether or not documentary expression owed its genesis from fiction or non-fiction was also explored. Finally the matter of ethics in the treatment and presentation of documentary imagery was discussed. Documentary Expression 3 Documentary Expression and Thirties America William Stott in his book Documentary Expression and Thirties America covers an enormous range of topics and much of it is in a highly discursive and rambling style. However, it is possible to subdivide it into four principal themes: Documentary, The Documentary Motive and the Thirties, The Documentary Nonfiction of the Thirties, and Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. First of all it is necessary to understand what he means by the documentary style. In its simplest form there are two possibilities: “an honest and reasonably objective report, or a case for the prosecution” (Stott, 1986). ...
It was also held that such a documentary style did not rely upon information so much as “the power to move.” Stott suggests that while the purpose is to encourage social improvement – public education at its most altruistic – reality is more cynical in that its real purpose is to shape attitudes towards certain public facts. An example of this type of “expose journalism’ is to use a public figure or authority’s quotation to mean something else. For example, the head of the US Red Cross stated categorically, in answer to innocent sounding questions, that Red Cross personnel were noncombatants. He was unable to defend this stance when faced with the fact that when called up for military service these individuals were obliged to take the oath, Documentary Expression 4 imposed by Congress, requiring them to obey military regulations and act as combatants. Two contrasting examples of the documentary style in thirties America are contained in the works of Bourke-White & Caldwell and Agee & Evans. In both cases one of the authors writes the commentary and the other provides a series of generally highly dramatic “propaganda” pictures. The question now arises, was the documentary style in the thirties; found in fiction and non-fiction, and in art and photography. The reverse of the former was really true; both fiction and non-fiction of the time owed something to the documentary style. Fiction was full of ‘real people’ and many writers tried to introduce social issues. The social documentary style was devised to give a sense of urgency to the representation of life as it was: reality with drama and a sharp tug at the emotions. In the case of non-fiction the genre usually relied upon simple issues: ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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