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The Camera as Political Apparatus:
An Unromantic Take on Documentary Practice

By Mathieu Asselin & Sergio Valenzuela Escobedo

1. - 5. June 2020
Atelier NOUA, Bodø, Norway
Participation fee : EUR 450
Application deadline : 1. February 2020
There is no application fee.

12 participants will be chosen by a panel, and notified by mid February.


"“There is no need for the western political artist, too often a disaster tourist, to sail the seven seas looking for injustices to denounce. Inequality and exploitation saturate the ground on which we stand, they are in the grain of everyday life.” - Victor Burgin.

The workshop invites participants to think, discuss and challenge their beliefs on what critical art and documentary photography is and can be. As photographers, how does our point of view and engagement affect how and what we photograph? Is documenting enough in today’s world? Are we in danger of succumbing to a certain aesthetic laziness in the way we photograph pain and misery, and is there an alternative? We believe that art and documentary photography still has an important role in criticising, revealing and in other ways actively catalysing change in today’s world. The way we as photographers approach what we do can mean the difference between visual tourism, a cry of outrage or effective criticism.

From planning and developing to promoting and funding a project, the participants will have an opportunity to clarify the next steps for their existing politically or socially engaged long-term work.

Part I. From outrage to productive criticism
Where to aim and how to create an efficient critique? We’ll discuss how to navigate the seemingly endless possibilities – from coming up with ideas, to developing a coherent storyline and form, collaboration, access to the subject, planning, visualizing and more.

Part II. Delivering the message and the form of the project
As the project develops, its final form and presentation should be kept in mind. The options are many, but we will talk about how to “set your own rules” by pinpointing what is most suitable for a specific project.

Part III. Show me the money
Funding is the Achilles heel of documentary photography. Photographing climate changes with a grant from Shell Oil Corporation – a disaster or a possibility? There is little money to go around, and what there is not always “clean”. Sponsors, prizes, grants, print sales – navigating these unclear waters is key in making choices that can affect the ethics of your work.

General requirements
Participants should be working on or have recently completed a long-term project. Bring your work-in-progress (small/medium prints are recommended as well as digital files), as well as your portfolio.

Time table of workshop week:
Monday 1. June - Friday 5. June

Day 1 : Full day workshop
Day 2 : Full day workshop
Day 3 : Full day workshop
Day 4 : Half day workshop
Day 5 : Presentation and public talks, half day (voluntary)

Other accompanying events included is seminar (day 4 and 5), exhibition opening and artist talks. Seminar fee and exhibition publication is included in the participation fee.

Participation fee: 450 EUR