Voix Pictures out of Zaragoza, Spain follows the traditional model of news photography agency, but aims to serve more than just news outlets. They have (or are attempting to) combine[d] multidisciplinary skill sets in hope of serving a wider client base, all the while keeping in mind their goals as humanist documentary photographers. I recently asked them a few questions:
Tell me what you think about photography on the internet and where it is going. Where do you fit in??
Internet has brought some positive aspects to photography. For a start, it has democratized it, enabling many talented photographers to showcase their work and make a name for themselves. It has definitely provided a new, realistic avenue for people to immerse themselves in photography - immediacy, affordable marketing and the possibility for all to have their own space. In this context, Voix Pictures has definitely benefitted. We are a small Spain-based collective yet we have been able to create a global business thanks to Internet. We can be anywhere, at anytime for anyone. It is easy now for others to discover us. Without internet, maybe we would have felt inclined to aim our efforts at attracting a local niche of clients.
Would you say that you are a documentary photographers? How would you define “documentary” photography?
Documentary photography is what attracted us to the medium in the first place. Although we enjoy covering both commercial and documentary assignments, it is the latter that makes us enjoy our work the most. Antoine d'Agata said "I document what I live and live the situations I document." and this is certainly what has motivated us at Voix. The members of Voix all come from very different, multidisciplinary backgrounds, so even though we are all documentary photographers we are all very different in our style. We do have one common interest, and that is humanitarian photography, hence the creation of Voix Inspire, a branch dedicated to supporting NGOs' visual needs. We all have experience in this field and it is something we are always looking out for. The way we understand documentary photography, its most important aspect is to be a witness of events and ensure that the visual story that you tell provides both all possible information and a valuable opinion. Nowadays where everyone has a camera, the journalist's reputation and understanding of the event can make a huge a difference. It is important, one could say almost necessary, to take sides. In our agency, we aim to go one step further and not just cover an event in its traditional sense, but be aesthetically different, which can open up other avenues for their use, such as art galleries, photobooks, etc. Documentary photography should in this sense not be limited to the strict sense of the word which may imply a photojournalistic approach. A lot of excellent documentary photography can delve in the artistic, and we feel that there are a lot of options available nowadays for this.
What do you think about the photographs and photographers in western Europe as compared to photographers from the US? Is there any difference?
This is actually a question that probably has a complex answer. Is it possible to recognize the author of a photograph by just looking at it? Only in a handful of ocassions. Is it possible to recognize the nationality of an author by just looking at a picture? We don't think so. At the end of the day, both the US and Western Europe both represent the white first world view on global issues. We think that there may be a more noticeable difference in today's photography between an African, Asian versus a US/Western European white middle-class photographer. Ultimately, like in many other areas of today's issues, there still persists a post-colonial mentality that shapes our view of the world. And us the photographers, are contributing to this notion and also to keeping this prejudiced mentality going. With regards to US and Europe, we think that the difference lies not so much in the photographers and their style, but in the way the various countries consume images. There is a clear difference in terms of influence, for instance American landscape versus pictorial European photography, but generally there are more exceptions than rules when it comes to differentiating the two. Excellent photographers from the Us are Alec Soth, Chris Jordan, Edward Burtynsky (Canadian), and European photographers that we very much like are Martin Parr, Anastasia Taylor Lind, Espen Rasmussen and David Gillanders to name but a few. It could happen that you tread on dangerous ground by dividing artists by regional or national outlook. For example, Robert Frank, he was a Swiss photographer clearly influencing American photography. How many European photographers have followed influenced by American photographers after Robert Frank? And now, with Internet and global mass media how can we talk about localised approach to photography? When talking about influences, it not only happens overseas, but also between regions. For instance, historically Dutch landscape artists influenced the rest of Europe. German photography this century has clearly influenced modern photography. And so on.
We mustn't forget South American photographers that are working nowadays in major agencies such as Reuters and AP, therefore influencing with their style, opinions and committed storytelling.