Here’s an inspiring 14-minute TEDx Talk by photographer Billy Weeks about documentary photography. Weeks explores that specific moment in which a photographer and subject “intersect with a single point of view.”
Coming from a poor background, Weeks built a career for himself in photojournalism. He spent a lot of his time documenting people, particularly those from similar upbringings. His first job was for the Chattanooga Times in 1984 as a staff photographer, and in 1999 he was promoted to Director of Photography. Only relatively recently in 2010 did Weeks become an independent documentary photographer.
Since then, he’s covered assignments from the World Series to documenting the lives of those living in small villages in Central America. His images of poverty in Honduras won an “Award of Excellence” for editorial photography in the Communication Arts Photography Annual. Since then he has picked up a number of other awards and seen his images published in high profile magazines.
Weeks reminds us that there are two views in documentary photography: that of the photographer, and that of the subject. This talk should give you some inspiration and insight into the responsibility that documentary photographers have in always remembering that there are two people to every photograph.
Throughout the talk, Weeks gives examples of his past assignments and what factors from his own experiences have shaped the images he ultimately produced.
“My photographs are my autobiography,” says Weeks. “If you dig deeper, you’ll find an understanding of a photographer with human politics and rights at its core.
“In the end, I’m always photographing myself.”