This form of photography is based completely on what is. As such, documentary photos are meant to incite change in social and political arenas by presenting facts, controversial as they may be. The message of these truths are delivered via this photography so that people can see for themselves what is happening in the world.
Being a documentary photographer is all about preserving history as it happens. And because social and political movements are constantly occurring, there is never a shortage of events to be documented. As it happens, documentary photography first emerged during the 1930s as the United States underwent the Great Depression. Photographers began documenting the rampant poverty of this low time, and have continued taking pictures of life altering events over the years.
The quality that makes a photographer exceptional at this form of photography is a keen eye for concise scenes that portray a great deal of information in just one shot. This means that documentary photography must deliver a big emotional punch in a single frame. Because of this, much of this kind of photography includes raw, shocking and even grotesque pictures. This quality is easy to see in documentary photos of Holocaust victims or the 9/11 national tragedy.
These shots are intended to cause emotions to surface within the spirits of those who view them. Sentiments of national patriotism, loss, and even shame are provoked by documentary photography. These proofs of history make their way into textbooks, magazines, and newspapers to help give a face to the events occurring throughout the world.
Documentary photographers are like history writers who do not need words to deliver the message. Their job is to show the truth about the actions of the people in this world and the results that ensue, whether good or bad, inspiring or devastating. Whether the issues captured concern cultural, political, or environmental situations, documentary photography helps to vividly educate average individuals about the truths that exist.