Last Thursday I went to a lecture/presentation with artist Martha Rosler at 18th Street. During undergrad I took a documentary photography class, and saw The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems at a gallery and it completely blew my mind. It made me re-love photography and believe in documentary work again.
During the talk she went over her various works over the past few decades with a focus on public works (the event was put on by Otis' Public Practice program). One of the things I loved was something she said during her talk. She curated a show (one of many) on homelessness and during the process she opened it up to other artists and organizations, with one rule: no pictures of men on benches. I thought that was a great rule and really speaks to how documentary work can fall into a rut, buying into the same cliche images instead of really investigating the matter at hand and finding compelling ways to interact with those you are photographing and not merely be a passerby who happens to have a camera. When she said it, I thought it would be a great compulsory exercise for documentary classes, to write it over and over again on a black board, Bart Simpson style.
She also spoke about her reading room project which included books from her library. Unlike other similar projects by other artists, she actually let visitors pick up and read her books! She even had copy machines in the spaces! I love sharing so I totally dig it. She's also really entertaining to listen to. I must admit, I didn't know all too much about her before I went, but I have so much more respect and a much better understanding of her work now. She is a phenomenal artist and so prolific and doesn't give a shit and it's great. :)