Social Documentary 2017-08-12T20:47:10+00:00

Social documentary

Introduction

The social documentary work contained in this website and a change in photographic direction originated after a tutorial with photographer and teacher Paul Hill in 1981. He was a regular visiting lecturer to the Fine Art Department at Sheffield City Polytechnic and was familiar with my fine art influenced photography at that time. During a particular tutorial he appeared to be exasperated with my progress and claimed I was only doing better what I could do already.

I was upset and disappointed with this reaction to my work, so we talked about my past experiences and in particular my summer job as a photographer at Butlins Holiday Camp in Skegness in 1977. I explained that it was a fairly difficult job photographing hundreds of people each day and in particular working in the vast dance halls at night full of inebriated and often abusive holiday makers. Any positives from this experience was that I had little or no inhibition in approaching and photographing people in public.

We also talked of my interest in social history and my need to ‘tell people what I have seen’. I was always aware that a contemporary image today will take on a historic value in time and will be continually reinterpreted at points in the future. However, my concerns at the time were, do I have the maturity, right and authority to do so? He simply said, “just do it” and don’t care what anyone thinks of you or your work.

He suggested that if I had the ability to use a camera in public places without feeling inhibited and tell a story I might be able to produce something worthwhile. It was from this point I decided to start photographing social groups, communities of people and become a photo-journalist.

“My favourite thing is to go where I’ve never been” Diane Arbus.

I invite anyone who may be able to add more information to any of these websites to contact me at info@billstephenson.co.uk and I will consider adding their contribution.