Officially it began in 1839. It can be claimed that all photography is documental in the sense that every image generates an information register regardless of the intentionality of the recording as well as the territory where it may be circumscribed. Along its history, both technical and aesthetical, the territories were defined at the measure of the practitioners’ interests and above all, of the market.
The specificity of social documentary photography is established at the end of the nineteenth century by means of the projects of Thomas Annan (1829-1887), in Glasgow, Arnold Genthe (1869-1942), in New York, or, in the beginning of the twentieth century, with Jacob August Riis (1849-1914) and Lewis Hine who document the hard working conditions of emigrants and child labour.
By then photography becomes a recognized tool for the denunciations of social injustices as well as an important assistance in the emerging sociology. Those looks have evolved into more humanistic style compositions during the in-between wars period, asserting in a more consistent way at the end of World War II, particularly in Europe. Outside Europe and in the scope of this photographic representation, other moments we consider emblematic can be identified: the works produced for the FSA in the second half of the thirties which document the application of the “New Deal” programme in the USA or the Photo League Project at the same period which encases a more urban language; the creation of Magnum Agency, in 1947; and yet, Life magazine reports.
With only a fine line separating them, documentary photography can be differentiated from photojournalism by its deeper investigative nature, its narrative content, and a greater coherence of its visual speech. So, in times where millions of images are produced on a daily basis, we strongly believe it to be of pertinent to focus on this theme, in order to lead the public to a better reflection on everyday life around us. We do not intend to present the big themes of papers headlines, such as war, famine, ecologic disasters, but rather a social portrait close to each citizen.
Believing in the efficacy of photography around social issues, the programme line is supported by some assumptions we believe are relevant: the intersection between European authors and others belonging to geographies external to Europe; within the European scope, to demonstrate the diversity of north-south and east-west behaviours. The inclusion of large collective of national photographers contributes also to express the importance of group projects in a more and more individualist society and the possibility of fostering networks. Finally, and from a strictly aesthetical point of view, the selection of authors and their projects guarantee a wide specter of looks over our contemporary world, potentiating a diversity of actions and educational activities.