It can be argued that documentary photography is a response to economic crisis--witness the 1930s (the Depression and the FSA in the US) and in the 1970s with its critique of the liberal humanism (eg., Edward Steichen's The Family of Man) of documentary photography by John Tagg, Martha Rosler, and Allan Sekula in the form of a politics of representation and the social history of art.
Tagg, for instance, in The Burden of Representation: Essays on the Photographies and Histories was sceptical about the capacity of social documentary photography to live up to its “act of compassionate looking”, a civic impulse which is, for Tagg, always subsumed into the liberal-capitalist machinery of the state apparatus beset to the right and left by the competing state forms of fascism and communism, before its impact can be registered. Documentary was the product of the continuing problematics of governance --crisis management in a shattered economic reality-- that turned on the management of public opinion to shore up the legitimacy and credibility of state-led solutions.
One response to this analysis of photography being framed by the dominant economies of images and meanings in the machinery of capture by New Deal reformism is the idea of a historical understanding of documentary practices in photography as well as how it is produced and functions in specific historical conjunctures. If so, then does the after effects of the economic crisis resulting from the global financial crisis of 2007- 2008 correspond to a new documentary experience?
That economic crisis is not limited to 2008-9 as its after effects continue into the second decade of the 21st century. By all accounts the global economy is in the worst shape in living memory. Deflation, stagnation, corporate and even government bankruptcy abound. Europe appears to be coming apart before our eyes. Even China has slowed sharply. Struggling to resuscitate growth, central banks have pushed real interest rates in much of the world to lows not seen for a very long time. The politics of austerity is the response by the conservative political elite in the US, Europe and Australia.