Before 1800s the majority of photos showed an unposed and unmanipulated subject. These were considered to be documentary photographs. The Chartists were a political movement which was named after the "People's Six Points Charter". This charter or petition called for: universal manhood suffrage annual parliaments payment of Members of Parliament vote by ballot equal electoral districts and the abolition of property qualifications for Members of Parliament (then £300 in land) Huge meetings were held in support of the Charter. Although the Charter was signed my many thousands of people Parliament turned down the proposals three times - 1839, 1842, and 1848. Daguerrotype. A literal record of a history otherwise unavailable. A privilege for us, windows on a lost world. This notion of literal and objective record of history, ignoring the cultural and social background renders the photograph as a neutral, passive and invisible recorder of the scene.
However, in the latter stages of the 19 th century and the emergence of social reform movements, photography began to be used to question society and the political system. Images still count as authentic records but photographers begin to have an agenda or point of view to convey. Through a pioneering blend of investigative reporting and documentary photojournalism, Jacob Riis helped to expose the horrible conditions of the slums in which the lower classes of New York City lived. Riis emigrated to the United States from Denmark in 1870 at the age of 21, and he knew what it was like to be desperately poor and live in substandard tenement housing. In 1877, Riis became a police reporter for the New York Tribune , before becoming a reporter for the New York Evening Sun in 1888. Working as a police reporter enabled Riis to write stories about the New York City slums and to learn more about the immigrant neighborhoods that would later serve as the focus of his calls for social reform. Riis's use of flashlight powder allowed him to take pictures of the interiors of shoddy tenement housing - images of extreme poverty that shocked the New York middle and upper classes. In 1890, Riis published his most famous work, How the Other Half Lives , a book that used revealing photojournalism and detailed analysis of the housing problems afflicting poor immigrants to argue in favor of reforming New York's tenements. This groundbreaking book launched Riis on a career of social reform, and he devoted the rest of his life to raising awareness about the grim realities facing poor immigrants inside New York City's slums. Riis's work brought him to the attention of one particularly important New Yorker, Theodore Roosevelt, who served as president of the New York Board of Police Commissioners from 1895 to 1897. Roosevelt and Riis became fast friends, and Roosevelt reportedly went with Riis on some of his late-night adventures into the New York slums to investigate living conditions. Riis and other Progressive-era reformers, often called "muckrackers," contended that poverty was the product of imperfect social and economic systems, and that it could therefore be reduced through increased government regulation of the economy. The idea that poverty can be eliminated through government-sponsored reforms, which Riis helped to promote, has had long-term effects on American politics through the present day. Riis was far from the only reformer who espoused this opinion in the late 19th century, but he was one of the earliest and most influential advocates of modern social reform. Riis died on March 26, 1914.
Link between older, Victorian concepts about gathering and archiving and emerging attitudes for reform. Focussed on the immigrants tempted to America from the east and south of Europe during the 1880s. These were the first victims of the economic collapse between 1882 and 1887. The poor quality of prints is still persuasive. Ris is uninterested in technique and aesthetics, the images are there to serve a purpose. However, a photographer must pay attention to pictorial structure and the disposition f light.
In 1891 he published How the Other Half Lives . The force of his words combined with the stark reality of his photos did much to sway public opinion to cleaning up the squalled conditions in the tenements "I found the patient on the top floor stretched upon two chairs. . ." "That ignorance plays its part, as well as poverty and bad hygienic surroundings, in the sacrifice of life is of course inevitable. They go usually hand in hand. Riis and other social documentary photographers felt it was necessary to communicate that slum dwellers were capable of human emotions and that they were being kept from living a human existence by their surroundings.
Hine began documenting immigrants arriving and awaiting processing at Ellis Island around 1904 and then followed these immigrants into the teeming tenements of the Lower East Side in Manhattan. He explored the immigrant experience with his probing lens and exposed the terrible housing and working conditions they were subject to in their attempts to integrate into their new homeland. Believing in the power of photography to persuade authorities to enact better housing codes for tenements and labor laws protecting children, Hine approached social welfare agencies about using his images for reform campaigns. In 1907 he was invited to participate in the Pittsburgh Survey, which was designed to investigate the living and working conditions of that heavily industrialized city.
Lewis Hine. In the 1890s reformist ideas continued to displace religiously motivated charity in the slums. Socialist photography became the embodiment of progressive values largely through the work of Lewis Hine. He expanded upon Riis’ objectives and formulated new concepts and techniques. As a school teacher, Hine was especially critical of the country's child labour laws. Although some states had enacted legislation designed to protect young workers, there were no national laws dealing with this problem. In 1908 the National Child Labour Committee employed Hine as their staff investigator and photographer. This resulted in two books on the subject, Child Labour in the Carolinas (1909) and Day Laborers Before Their Time (1909). Hine travelled the country taking pictures of children working in factories. In one 12 month period he covered over 12,000 miles. Unlike the photographers who worked for Thomas Barnardo , Hine made no attempt to exaggerate the poverty of these young people. Hine's critics claimed that his pictures were not "shocking enough". However, Hine argued that people were more likely to join the campaign against child labour if they felt the photographs accurately captured the reality of the situation. Factory owners often refused Hine permission to take photographs and accused him of muckraking. To gain access Hine sometimes hid his camera and posed as a fire inspector. Hine worked for the National Child Labour Committee for eight years. Hine told one audience: "Perhaps you are weary of child labour pictures. Well, so are the rest of us, but we propose to make you and the whole country so sick and tired of the whole business that when the time for action comes, child labour pictures will be records of the past."
The first world war and the developments in modernism meant that for a short time photographers attentions were elsewhere. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was one of the most devastating stock market crashes in American history—probably the very worst, taking into consideration the full scope and longevity of its fallout. The crash followed a speculative boom that had taken hold in the late 1920s, which had led millions [ citation needed ] of Americans to invest heavily in the stock market, a significant number even borrowing money to buy more stock. By August 1929, brokers were routinely lending small investors more than 2/3 of the face value of the stocks they were buying. [ citation needed ] Over $8.5 billion was out on loan, more than the entire amount of currency circulating in the U.S.  The rising share prices encouraged more people to invest; people hoped the share prices would rise further. Speculation thus fueled further rises and created an economic bubble. the market finally turned down, and panic selling started. 12,894,650 shares were traded in a single day as people desperately tried to mitigate the situation. This mass sale was considered a major contributing factor to the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Resettlement Administration, later the Farm Security Administration, to assist dislocated farmers. The agency's “Historical Section” aided in this effort by documenting the need for agricultural assistance and recording the results of the agency's efforts to address that need. Under the direction of Roy Stryker, the head of the photographic unit, the documentation effort went further than that. Images in the Farm Security Administration/ Office of War Information (FSA /OWI) Collection (164,000 black-and-white film negatives, 107,000 black-and-white photographic prints, and 1,610 color transparencies, 1935-45) show: Americans at home, at work, and at play, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization displaced people migrating West or to industrial cities in search of work America's mobilization for World War II
I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.
“That’s a sophisticated, misleading word,and notreally clear”(Interview with Walker Evans, Art in America, Leslie Katz.1971)
Document means evidence. It comes from the medieval termdocumentum which was a term for an official paper. Thiswould contain evidence that could not be questioned, atruthful account backed by the authority of law.
As a genre in photography it is associated with the samesignificance and authority.‘The Great Chartists Meeting onKennington Common’,William Edward Kilburn. 1848.The historical significance invested a photograph’s statusas a truthful and objective representation of what hadhappened.
Photograph of Jacob Riis inThe Making of an American. 1904Jacob RiisBandit’s RoostFebruary 12th1888
“When Dorothea took that picture,that was the ultimate. She neversurpassed it. To me it was thepicture of Farm Security. She hasall the suffering of mankind in her,but all the perseverance too. Arestraint and a strange courage.”Roy Stryker