Jean-François Chevrier – Documentary, document, testimony…


Chevrier, J. (2005) ‘Documentary, Document, Testimony…’ In: Documentary now pp.46–56.

MOHAMED BOUROUISSA | official website (s.d.) At: (Accessed 17/02/2020).

The course guide mentions Chevrier saying that documentary photography is not a product of the imagination. Having now read his essay – more than once – it seems to me that this is not exactly what he means. He says ‘the photographic picture, resulting from a recording process, is not in essence a product of imagination’, which is not as prohibitive as the course notes suggest.  This doesn’t really alter the fact that he does regard documentary as being firmly fixed in reality, at least as an image source.

All this does though is to dismiss the idea of purely constructed images. In which case I don’t see how this would exclude the work of Mohamed Bourouissa, again as suggested in the course guide. It is not clear just how staged how his work is – such as Périphérique – but it does actually begin with reality; the images here are not purely constructed. However in the sense that I think perhaps is meant by the course guide, his work is not straightforward reportage. The images in Périphérique describe an environment without explicitly focussing on the environment itself, but rather concentrating on the people there. There is no text to accompany the images (also an approach that Chevrier seems not to be keen on) so that the overall effect is determined by the viewer’s response to the images alone.

I realise that at this stage I have only just begun this course but it does seem to me to be fairly obvious that his work could fit in the category of documentary. But maybe I will change my thoughts on this as the course progresses.

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