The Ethics of Documentary

Vivian Maier New York 1953 Copyright Estate of Vivian Maier and Courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery NY

Talks & Events

21 September 2022


A panel discussion exploring the ethics surrounding documentary photography practices and photojournalism, taking the discovery and exposure of Vivian Maier’s work as a starting point.

The discussion will consider the ways photojournalism and documentary photography can be used both as a means of storytelling to advocate for communities and give them agency whilst also risking instrumentalising them in ways that can be considered exploitative. Raising the question of whose voices are heard and how authentic they are.

The panel will consist of philosophers from the Open University’s Philosophy Department and photographers whose practice involves documentary photography.


Chaired by Alice Riddy

Alice Riddy is Exhibitions Coordinator at MK Gallery, as well as a photographer herself and has been featured in various publications and exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Within her research, Riddy explores documentary photography and criticism around the genre for its ability to provoke response from the viewer.

Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hull and a Trustee of the British Society of Aesthetics. In the Philosophy of Photography, she has written about aesthetic scepticism, self-portraiture and comparing photography with music. Her multi-stage account launched a debate known as the ‘New Theory’ of photography and her recent work challenges the traditional notion of the latent image and the assumption that photography is fundamentally a recording medium.

Derek Matravers

Derek Matravers is Professor of Philosophy at The Open University and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He has written Art and Emotion(OUP, 1998), Introducing Philosophy of Art: Eight Case Studies (Routledge, 2013); Fiction and Narrative (OUP, 2014); and Empathy (Polity, 2017). He is the author of numerous articles in aesthetics, ethics, and the philosophy of mind. His edits, with Paloma Atencia-Linares, The British Journal of Aesthetics.

Alice Zoo

Alice Zoo is a photographer and writer based in London. She is interested in the processes by which people construct meaning for themselves, often in the form of ritual, celebration, and recounted memory. Her work has been commissioned by publications including National GeographicThe New York Times, and The New Yorker, and has been exhibited internationally: in the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward 2016, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition in 2018, the Royal Photographic Society International Photography Exhibition in 2018 & 2019, the Creative Review Photography Annual in 2019 & 2021, and Photo Vogue Festival in 2020.

Muna Ally

Muna Ally is an artist and founder of The Kanga Project; a charity initiative celebrating women with gifts of Kanga in Zanzibar. Using her unique perspective as a Muslim female photographer, Ally focuses on amplifying the voices of communities through visual media. Through her documentary works, Ally has successfully brought together a multitude of people worldwide for various charitable causes; with the aim to inspire to utilise creativity for social change.

Dr Jennifer Good

Dr Jennifer Good is a writer and Senior Lecturer in the history and theory of photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.  Her publications include Understanding Photojournalism (Bloomsbury, 2017), Photography and September 11th: Spectacle, Memory, Trauma (Bloomsbury, 2015) and Mythologizing the Vietnam War: Visual Culture and Mediated Memory (CSP, 2014). Her current research is concerned with themes of power, violence, psychoanalysis and love.

Part of the #ArtHistoryFestival2022. Sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.