“ That’s a sophisticated, misleading word,and not really clear” (Interview with Walker Evans, Art in America , Leslie Katz. 1971)
Document means evidence. It comes from the medieval term documentum which was a term for an official paper. This would contain evidence that could not be questioned, a truthful account backed by the authority of law.
As a genre in photography it is associated with the same significance and authority. ‘ The Great Chartists Meeting on Kennington Common’, William Edward Kilburn. 1848. The historical significance invested a photograph’s status as a truthful and objective representation of what had happened.
Photograph of Jacob Riis in The Making of an American . 1904 Jacob Riis Bandit’s Roost February 12 th 1888
Lewis Hine Poor home. New York City tenement Lewis Hine, Woman washing clothes . 1909-12 Lewis Hine
Lewis Hine, Doffer Girl in New England Mill. 1909
Margaret Bourke-White Sharecropper’s Home. 1937 Farm Security Association. Roy Stryker
Dorothea Lange. Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother. 1936
“ When Dorothea took that picture, that was the ultimate. She never surpassed it. To me it was the picture of Farm Security. She has all the suffering of mankind in her, but all the perseverance too. A restraint and a strange courage.” Roy Stryker