The Struggle for Freedom in “________”: (Re)defining Documentary Photography is an investigation into the conventions and visual strategies of photojournalism and documentary photography, with a particular focus on identifying the underlying ideological intentions and inherent power-structures embedded in a web of visual, semiotic and iconographical intertextualities. This research forms the theoretical framework for the development of an ongoing artistic practice that poses to make these constructions explicit by attempting to define a new frame of realism in a hyper-visual post-truth era. This six year research project is structured in three main chapters: 1: a study into the 1950’s Emergency Crisis in British Imperial Kenya and how photographic conventions play a role in shaping historical narratives through re-enactments with Kenyan Mau Mau war veterans; 2: various case studies into the tropes and iconography of photojournalism and how they have developed over time, with artworks such as an artificial intelligence operated camera trained on all previous World Press Photo winners, or an in-depth analysis into the true location of Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier photograph; 3: a book interweaving six personal stories in the USA after 9/11, dealing with the apparent incapacity of the mainstream media to transmit intimate or idiosyncratic versions of reality.

On 25 February 2019, The School of Speculative Documentary organizes an all-day symposium at Kaaitheater in Brussels, with An van Dienderen, Max Pinckers, Michiel De Cleene, Thomas Bellinck, e.a. During the symposium several questions will be raised. How can we rethink the documentary gesture conceptually, formally and methodologically, exposing it to continuous uncertainty, contamination and contestation? How can we draw inspiration from the paradox that any attempt to document a reality, causes it to mutate and evaporate? How can we cut across the traditional boundaries that pigeonhole the documentary into rigid genres? What strategies can we develop to subvert market-driven formats? How can we critically question the power-structures inherent in documentary making? How do we undermine the documentary's authoritative claim to knowledge and truth? How do documentarists deal with their own blind spots and positions of power? How can we shoulder responsibility for the selection mechanisms that define what can and should be perceived, seen, heard, said, thought, made or done?
Max Pinckers is affiliated as a researcher to KASK / School of Arts of University College Ghent, financed by the Arts Research Fund of University College Ghent, 2015-2021.

The School of Speculative Documentary is an initiative by Max Pinckers, Michiel De Cleene, Thomas Bellinck and An van Dienderen. It’s a cross-disciplinary meeting place dedicated to critically questioning the documentary gesture. The artists associated with the School of Speculative Documentary openly embrace uncertainty, messiness and conjecture in their engagement with and creation of multiple and mutable realities.