Four Up and Coming Documentary Photographers You Should Know About

We will always need to be told visual stories. We’ve highlighted some of the best up and coming documentary photographers who are here to tell them.

The impact documentary photography has on the world is invaluable. It opens our eyes to things happening which we may not normally be aware of. Powerful storytelling can change the way we think, the way we see, and, on an emotional level, the way we feel. Without it, we may not have broken boundaries or changed ideologies. As for the role of the photographer, to produce a high standard of documentary work is no small feat. Thankfully, as with the seasoned pros, there is a new batch of storytellers here and ready to keep sharing the narratives we want to know about.

1. Courtney Garvin (cdgarvin.com)

Born in Carolina, Courtney is now based in New York and best describes herself as a visual artist. As a woman of color, through her work, she is interested in exploring blackness – specifically in the way it is portrayed in the media. Her most notable work, In These Clasped Hands, led her to receive widespread attention. A project that first started as a way to document her family soon became something much deeper.

After the Mother Emanuel Church shooting in Charleston, the project began to focus on racial tensions. Her work was soon built around the manner in which the black community was being treated in the south.

Her work and ability as a documentary photographer have not gone unrecognized. This year the Magnum Foundation announced that Garvin would become one of their Photography and Social Justice Fellows, and we think this is well deserved!

2. Hadeer Mahmoud (hadeermahmoud.com)

Hadeer Mahmoud is an Egyptian news and documentary photographer. Most recently she was a nominee at the Joop Swart Masterclass (organised by World Press Photo). On her website, Mahmoud has several projects available to view. We were most intrigued and moved by her work in the Empowering Women project.

Empowering Women looks at the female response to the increasing amount of violence they experience, both sexual and physical. Courageously (and sadly) Egyptian women have been attending self-defense classes so they can better protect themselves. The work explores the physical and mental demands of mixed martial arts, and the impact it is having on women both positively and negatively.

We expect Mahmoud’s profile to keep growing as she continues to make powerful and meaningful work.

3. Ezra Acayan (@ezra_acayan)

Ezra Acayan is the winner of the 2018 IAFOR Documentary Photography Award. The accolade was awarded to him for his exceptional series Duterte’s Was on Drugs is Not Over. 

This is a moving project. Within it, we see pain, desperation, violence, and death. Whilst it may be too much for some to consume, the work is hugely important as it highlights the ongoing drug issues in the Philippines. What we like most about Acayan’s work is that it doesn’t attempt to dilute the truth. We are given a raw, powerful narrative in order to provoke interest and reaction.

Acayan hopes his work can contribute to ending the violence.

4. Elliot Verdier (elliotverdier.com)

In his documentary project, A Shared Path, Elliot Verdier includes some beautiful landscape and portrait photography. The story analyzes a former Soviet republic landlocked in central Asia. The depth and diversity of the subjects really impressed us in this project.

The project explores the social impacts of the former control of the USSR. It listens to the stories of its inhabitants and looks at the way it has shaped future generations.

The work is emotive, aesthetically pleasing, and layered in so many ways that you keep getting a new perspective each time you view it.

One to Watch – Xingkun Yang (xkyoung.com)

As a bonus, we’ve decided to include Xingkun Yang as a documentary photographer to keep an eye on. Still very much in the birth of his career, Yang has recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Photojournalism and Documentary photography at London’s prestigious UAL.

In his series, The Invisible, Yang spent time exploring the lives of the homeless community. Rather than just wanting to highlight the issue, he aimed to find things the community had in common with the rest of society – an approach we find refreshing. Further to his credit, Yang did not just simply take photos. He ate with his subjects, spent time talking to them, and even slept next to them.

We hope to see more of this young documentary photographer in the future.

Please Support Documentary Photographers

The reason documentary photography exists is because of its demand. Without the support of the people, hard-working photographers would not have the platforms to share their stories. As highlighted above, the future is clearly bright in regards to reportage and documentary photography and we need to protect that.

Please follow these photographers, go to their exhibitions, buy their books, or simply donate a few dollars for a cup of coffee. We can all do our part to keep the power of visual storytelling alive!

Lead photo by Hadeer Mahmoud (Used with Permission)


Dan Ginn is a UK based street photographer and writer. Learn more about him via his website and Instagram.