Objective and Subjective Photography

Objective photography

Objective photography is an impersonal image not influenced by feelings, interpretations or prejudice.  To create an unbiased photographic image or documentary. Objective photography is not intended to be a creative process, but a method to make a clear journal, record or evidence of something, events or objects based on facts. Examples of objective photography includes industrial photography that records the stages of building construction typically in a series of images. The recording of a manufacturing process or production line. The archaeological or scientific photography used to capture clearly the subject matter. Other examples of objective photography is medical or forensic photography, photographic identity photography, architectural photography.

Subjective photography

Subjective photography is the creative or artistic process. The aim is to make a personal interpretation, a composition to capture and create an image with style. The photograph may be of anything, an individual or group of people, objects, location or a landscape. The aim is typically to create an image by using a variety of methods or processes such as props, settings, posses, lighting, unusual angles, and darkroom printing or developing techniques.  With digital photography pot processing and image manipulation.  The aim is to generate a photograph that tells a story or invokes or describes a mood, conveys atmosphere or emotions.

The subjective photographic experience can also be done when the photographer gives an image a title and writes their ideas or opinions, intentions about the photograph and again when other observers including critics comment or make their views and interpretations known about the image.

Objective Subjective Photography crossover

There are times when objective and subjective can blur such as photographic journalism, there are times when the photographer takes images with a view to telling a story or providing a view seen through the eyes of the photographer. Other examples can be when the intention is to make an objective photographic study, but the subject matter of the photograph becomes unintentionally artistic such as a wildlife study and the photographs of people and places

Eugène Atget, (1857-1927) is recognised as the one of the first documentary photographers or Objective photographer. In the 1890s he started to record the architecture of Paris, the parks and street scenes and some of the people.

Carrousel. Eugene Atget

He did not attempt to make artistic compositions, instead he recorded places. Through the photographic records he built up a large catalogue of photographs of Paris. Examples of his work can be seen http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Eugene-Atget.html or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Atget


Walker Evans (1903-1975) Evans recorded the American way of life from 1920s to the 1970s. Similar to Atget, Evans photographs captured street scenes, architecture and everyday people going about their daily lives.

Rural Church, South Carolina. Walker Evans

Evans is credited with capturing “the spectator’s role, and of the poetic resonance of ordinary subjects.” Evans captured the facts of social history and changes in American way of life that happened over the 50 years he took his photographs. The changes in transport, fashions, farming the shops the change in cities as they grew.


Example of Evans work can be seen http://www.britannica.com/biography/Walker-Evans or http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm

Francis Frith (1822-1898), Another British early documentary photographer, he made his passion to photograph as many towns, cities and villages in to a commercial business travelling the UK capturing local scenes, buildings, people and their ‘way of life’

Georges Dock, Liverpool. © Francis Frith

He then sold copies of his prints to interested people, and published postcards.  Frith built this into a business and employed additional photographers to help with the task of building a photographic record of the UK.  His photographs are still sold today as prints or in books and albums.  Frith also undertook several expeditions to Egypt and recorded Egypt, and their monuments. The company Frith started continued after his death until the 1970s with the same goal of photographing places in the UK.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Frith or http://www.francisfrith.com/uk/

William Eggleston (1939-) because of his photographic subject matter and the everyday things he photographs in the home and local

Untitled (1980) from ‘Troubled Waters’ series. William Eggleston


environment is a modern example of an Objective photographer that is also viewed as a subjective photographer because of the subject matter of his images combined with his style of low camera angles.


Examples of his work can be seen  http://www.egglestontrust.com/

Man Ray (1890-1976) Ray’s photographs are subjective, he was influended by artists of the time and artistic movements such as Dada and Surrealism.

Le Violon d’Ingres. © Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

His portfolio shows this to great effect.  A strong example is the photographic composition “Le Violon d’Ingres” a photographic inspired by the painting of Jean-Auguste-Dominique



Examples of his work can be seen http://www.manraytrust.com/

Annie Leibovitz (1949 – ) An American portait photographer of celebrities and fashion, her style is objective and subjective.  Objective capturing the

Miley Cyrus (2008). Annie Leibovitz

image of her models.  Subjectve in the way and style she poses the models.  Some of her portraits mimic artistic poses from paintings.  Some of her photgraphs place people in story settings such as ‘Alice in Wonderland’.


Examples of her work can be seen http://annieleibovitz.tumblr.com/




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