An exploration of what documentary is,
with an eye toward what it might become.

Published by UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art, World Records brings together the voices of scholars, critics, makers, and curators who offer new and complex perspectives on documentary to challenge and extend its margins.

An expanding nonfiction media culture finds itself in a number of new spaces, from the proliferation of documentary in film festivals, galleries, and activism, to other forms of social, mobile, and emerging media, yet there is as of yet no critical journal dedicated to exploring the implications and the possibilities of this shifting terrain. The objective of the journal, mirroring the spirit of UnionDocs more broadly, is to frame the idea of documentary media as expansively and inclusively as possible.

World Records adopts an ecological view of non-fiction, one that investigates the conditional as well as the expressive forms of relation in the images that constitute our shared worlds. The journal approaches criticism not as the study of finished products, but as a rigorous space of engagement with a variety of image-based forms that are always contestable.

Published semi-annually, individual peer-reviewed volumes are organized around broad yet well-defined themes that engage the intellectual, technical, and formal strategies that are at the heart of an engaged contemporary nonfiction media practice, as well as the cultures that frame it.

Call For Submissions

Vol. 1



Vol. 1   Fall    2017 

The Documentary Camera

What is a documentary camera?
What do cameras do?
How do we know?

The increasing number of cameras, the number of individuals and spaces exposed to their effects, and the massive volume of photographs and video generated by those cameras and then shared, posted, streamed, installed, and screened across the globe suggests that it might be time to re-evaluate these questions and return to a set of first principles.

Within the field of documentary, the camera is often thought of as a key tool of transparency in a democratic politics of publicity, one where the camera aids in making publics by making public that which remains hidden.  But a contemporary surplus of recording devices produces as many dilemmas as it may resolve: it might be said to produce not more democracy but more suspicion, and their ubiquity comes at a time when many are experiencing more precarity than stability.   We solicit papers and abstracts on questions that help to explore and expand upon the contradictions of our present social and technological moment by addressing questions including, but not limited to, the themes listed below.

Social and Technological Conditions

In our “24/7” culture, as described by Jonathan Crary, new media might be defined by the increased demands that emerging technologies like the camera place upon our bodies.  At the same time, we can challenge what’s so new about new camera technologies by exploring the larger social and economic narratives, demands, and goals that are set in motion and inscribed into industrial and production processes long before the technologies that absorb those narratives appear in the marketplace.


  • Relationship between developments in new camera technologies and documentary discourses of access, intimacy, and publicity.
  • Augmented and virtual reality technologies and the politics and aesthetics of immersion.
  • Emerging camera technologies and their relationship and challenges to agency as a superintending concept of documentary study.
  • Explorations of recent nonfiction projects realized through the implementation of very particular camera technologies.
  • Explorations of films and filmmakers that situate these questions in the larger frame of documentary history.

Cameraless and Imageless Documentary Studies

According to Ariella Azoulay, the photograph is but one of a number of outcomes in the “event of photography,” a phrase that she uses to refer to the nearly endless possibilities catalyzed by the presence of a camera in a social space.


  • Explorations of the social and political effects of the presence of the documentary camera outside of the images that the camera produces.
  • Recent and historical cinema practices that elide traditional cinematic apparatuses.

What Can Cameras Do?

In recent years, many media makers have increasingly described their work as “mapping spaces” rather than “revealing” or “recording.”  


  • What are the implications for the primacy of the camera as documentary turns to the charting of invisible flows?
  • Studies of projects that frame personal recording devices, privacy, and empowerment.
  • Explorations of projects that frame and rework the perspectival assumptions built into camera optics.

Deadline for electronic submission of 3,500 – 4,500 word essays formatted in Chicago Style, short abstract, brief bio, and bibliography is March 10, 2017. Please prep submissions for anonymous review.

Alternately, deadline for electronic submissions of 500 word abstract, brief bio, and sample bibliography is February 20, 2017 with notification by March 20, 2017.