Ismael dos Anjos . Reframe Magazine

Earlier interpreted as a somewhat transparent reproduction of facts in order to educate its public or, later, as per Susan Sontag definition, an industry that turns citizens into “image-junkies”, the documentary photography tradition has been a communication tool through its history.

From an individual perspective, after a few years of photojournalism work addressing issues such as human rights, racial equity, social justice, my body of work seemed shallow. At first, when the images were made, their impacts could be, or were, significant. However, in an age with a plethora of noise and digital consumption, using pictures to foster dialogue, humanize, provoke empathy or educate felt like a struggle that became more unattainable as the time in which each photo was captured passed by.

During my tenure at MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at UAL, this feeling grew and became an urgency. If “attention is a resource” and “a person has only so much of it”, how can my practice strive to stay relevant in an attention economics era in which denunciation becomes numb by time, volume and reproducibility?

Widely spread despite decades of questioning, the promise of objectivity imposes limits to photography in order to adhere to a representation of truthness. The comprehension that to convey a story within the limits of a frame is already a form of aestheticization proved fundamental for me to contemplate freely other conceptions of meaningful documentary work.

During my studies, I’ve been questioning what regular documentary practices exclude from the view of its public and, also, how should a photographer or editor address those issues. How does being who I am, a Latin black man, inform my production? What constitutes a trustworthy document? How can stories be told or adjusted over a period of time and remain relevant? Is there room for aestheticization when it comes to conveying reality?

Even though these are queries that probably won’t ever be answered definitively, REFRAME doesn’t shy away from trying to answer them. In its four articles, while addressing subjects that concern or make myself uneasy, this magazine balances non-hegemonic epistemology, photographic theory, and images who went through interventions in order to have new or more layers of meanings.

Over the REFRAME pages, you will encounter articles about the following narrative strategies: ‘Margin’, which depicts the abandonment to which the victims of the biggest socio-environmental mining crime in Brazil are being treated over the last five years; ‘Let it Burn’, a work about the suspicious fires at poor neighborhoods; a co-creative practice proposal which attempts to include different social locus in my imagery production; and a defense of the conscious aestheticization as a useful and welcome documentary resource.

As a person, I believe in a world that strives for racial equity, social justice, and citizenry. As a photographer, I envision a documentary body of work that contributes to the changes that I want to see. Stories like these must be told, and this is my way of telling them.


Ismael dos Anjos is an experienced professional in areas such as documentary, journalism, branded content, photography and as a consultant on subjects of race, masculinities and gender equity. While several Brazilians travel to other countries to cover human rights, wars, and international affairs, he is focused on what happens within his country’s borders.

“In telling stories, I have learned that listening attentively and ethically are primordial steps to foster dialogue, humanize, provoke empathy, educate, inspire, and make people protagonists of their own history. As a communicator, from the understanding that my work may also incur subalternization, I have been reflecting on manners to contribute to change this balance of power within my own body of practices without waiving to report or document what anguishes me, conscious of my standpoint. Even though I am black and Latino, two of the existential categories often made invisible in the Communication and Documentary industries, there is power in the resources I have and choices I make in order to represent a person or segment of society. I believe that if there is a yearning for content with significance, it is a communicator or artist’s choice to access it or not, to the best of their ability, while observing the ethical ethos and remaining attentive to their social locus standpoint”.