Exercise: A subtle colour documentary


Read the article ‘Seeing and Believing’, written by Max Houghton for Foto8.

Select two bodies of work from Eight Ways to Change the World (2005) that show different conceptual and visual styles and write a short reflective commentary in your learning log. Both bodies of work should be in colour. Discuss aspects like information, aesthetics and expression.


I chose Chris de Bode and Dieter Telemans.

Chris de Bode

There’s a subset of de Bode’s work in this project that I really connected with: the images of children who had been asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. I was drawn to these images because they subverted the traditional downbeat, sometimes patronising coverage of ‘disadvantaged’ countries by being positive and future-focused, and by allowing the children to be playful in their acting out of their chosen roles.

By using the construct of the future career, the images get across the message that these children have a future – and crucially gives them agency in choosing that future. Aesthetically they are a combination of quite traditional environmental portraits and more unusual compositions, such as the young ‘policeman’ shot through the gap in the trees, or the wide shot of the ‘pilot’. What they have in common aesthetically is the depth that places each one clearly in the context of the Ethiopia they inhabit. The background is as important as the foreground.

These images express an idea, a possible future – while simultaneously placing them in the reality of the present. They are a combination of expression and information.

Dieter Telemans

Teleman’s work is strong for focusing on a particular subject – water – and looking at it from a variety of angles. Like de Bode, he depicts his subjects positively: in this case, it’s about them having a degree of control over their lives and solving their own problems, rather than being portrayed as victims that rely on outside help.

However, his approach and style are a little different to de Bode. Most of Telemans’ images are (or at least appear to be) less staged, although many do show a flair for eye-catching composition. The colour palette and locale reminded me a little of some of the wok of Steve McCurry. The images here are more photo-essay in style than de Bodes, whose are more environmental portraits; Telemans’ images inform without the need for lengthy captions, while de Bodes are significantly easier to understand when accompanied by explanatory text. Telemans’ work is however more factual and less overtly conceptual than de Bode’s.


‘Seeing and Believing’ http://issuu.com/foto8/docs/vol4no3 (accessed 10/06/2016)

Chris de Bode http://www.chrisdebode.com/stories#/eight-ways/ (accessed 10/06/2016)

Dieter Telemans http://www.dietertelemans.com (accessed 10/06/2016)



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