AV Gift Essay Feedback from Pinkstinks

About 20 minutes after I had submitted the essay for SE842 (typical!), I received the following feedback from Pinkstinks:

 

“Working with Caroline has been great for us as she took the initiative, presented ideas (good ones) and was quick and reliable.  All in total contrast to us! With the difficulties facing us as a small voluntary organisation with too much to do, this was a breathe of fresh air. She understood the project and it’s aims quickly, and went away to think before presenting us with different ideas.  Once we had chosen an idea for a film, she produced the entire thing herself but always kept us in the loop.  We are pleased with the film itself and will be using it on our website upon the launch of our new campaign.  Considering that this is one of the first films Caroline has produced, I think that the level of production, editing and filming is impressive.  Being a film-maker myself I understand what is involved, and doing all of the elements yourself is no mean feat.  She definitely has an excellent sense of timing and I think that the film builds up nicely to the ‘finale’ of beauty products montage.  My thoughts now that the film is complete would probably be to next time include some voiceover, or maybe words on screen to further ram home the messages of the campaign.  Also, and this is by no means a criticism! but if we can get a camera operator, including a lovely camera, to be directed and shoot for us next time, then we should.  I am sure that Caroline would have no quarms about being in the directors chair!  That said, to have shot and directed little girls, particularly in close-up, is very difficult, and I think Caroline did a fantastic job.

We would definitly work with Caroline again. that is for sure.

You have done a great job.  Well done but most importantly, thank you.’

Excerpt from email from Abi Moore (6/04/2011)


We’re going to have a chat about the voice-over possibility, which I may add over the Easter Break, so watch this space for (even more) new versions!


AV Gift Essay (SE842)

Below is the media mentioned in my AV Gift Essay for the course SE842: Participatory (AV) Ethnography.  It all provided some inspiration for my final campaign advertisement for Pinkstinks (which can’t yet be posted here until the campaign launches).

Beauty Pressure: Onslaught (Dove advertisement, directed by Tim Piper)

Here Come the Girls (Boots Advertising campaign 2007 – 2010, various directors)

Original 2007 advertisement

2010 advertisements

What I like about these ads is the simple ideas put together at high quality.  And in the Boots ads I like the cheeky feel.  I tried to combine the elements of the two sets of adverts in my final film, to give a serious message, but in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way; to make people think, but not tell them what to do.

Royalty free music used – Mister Capone:

Produced by Proud Music Library: http://www.proudmusiclibrary.com


Playing with Light

Playing with Light, posted with vodpod
Yesterday we were lucky enough to have a workshop with the filmmaker Maarten Roos in which we learnt all about playing with light.  Amazing the different mood you can create just using a couple of well directed lights and some reflectors.  Luckily Amy kindly volunteered to be our model, and some of the effects are stunning.

Pink Stinks!

In an incredible piece of fortune, pink stinks have agreed to let me attempt to make them a film towards their campaign for real role models and against the sexualisation of children.  Gender stereotyping, the scarcity of strong female role models in the media, and the sexualisation of children are issues I feel strongly about and so I am delighted to be given the opportunity to work on this issue.  Better get cracking.

Screen image of pink stinks website

Pink stinks website: http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk


Insider/outsider perspectives in photography.

Photo of man within protesting crowd taking photos

Insider/outsider portrait. Gonzalo taken unawares.

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky to have James Kriszyk, a talented portrait photographer, come and teach a class on portraiture.  The class focused on insider and outsider perspectives in portraiture; how photography differs when taking portraits that people are aware of, either for their own or your desires, and how it is different when portraits are taken as part of ‘street photography’ where people are either unaware, or are at the very least, not consciously posing.  These two types of portraiture offer two very different ways of working, and notwithstanding the ethical debates of subject consent, offer very different opportunities for capturing life.  Here are some of the photos I took during the day.  The class took place on the same day as one of the initial student protests at the University of Kent against tuition fee increases, so there was the perfect opportunity to take photos as ‘insider-outsiders’.

Outsider portrait

Photo of boy on a bike cycling in the opposite direction to student protest.

Outsider portrait

Outsider portrait

Insider portrait of Maria Paz

All images taken on Nikon D90, on November 17th, University of Kent campus.  Later enhanced using Photoshop.

What was interesting about the insider/outsider perspective was how much easier it was for me to take the outsider photos: people didn’t mind, or even posed for me to take them, but I didn’t have to please them with the end result.  I felt much more obligation to Maria Paz, for who on taking a portrait I wanted to also make something that pleased her: I was conscious throughout it of here thoughts and feelings, whilst with the outsider photography I just wanted to capture an image.  Susan Sontag talks about the ‘assault’ of photography, and I think this is what I was feeling with Maria Paz; I was very conscious of not ‘assaulting’ her, and so the photographs were much harder to take and edit.  I found it much easier, and more fun to take the outsider portraits, because I was not conscious of this element of expectation in the subject, and there was no fear in how the end result would affect the subject.

The good news is my photography is improving!  Here are a few other insider/outsider portraits I took whilst working with the Feisty Pigeons:

People blurred by movement

Two people, one stationary, one blurred

Blurred girlAll images taken on Nikon D90, on November 5th, Jarman Building University of Kent.

I took these pictures whilst the group were warming up, and I like the way they show the motion of the people; the Feisty Pigeons are vibrant individuals who rarely stay still, which I think is conveyed in the images.  I think photography is very powerful in its ability to portray movement, emotion, memories.

References:

Sontag, S. (1978) On Photography.  London: Penguin Books Ltd.


Enough about you, let’s talk about me! Thoughts on reflexivity in anthropology.

Apparently now is the time for us all become navel gazers and spend our time reflecting on our work, our practice, our theories, our influences, our feelings, our actions…  As anthropology, and visual anthropology in particular debates the theorists’ place and standpoint, each author (academic, theorist – whatever you want to call yourself) is encouraged to start examining themselves; reflecting on their own place in their work as well as how their ideas and theories are developing.  Reflexive anthropology, is not new – back in the 70s anthropologists were talking and writing about it, but it now seems to have become part of the everyday discourse of anthropology, and so long as it does not become too narcissistic, is valued for many reasons:

  • it helps ensures an ethical method of anthropology by revealing the construction of anthropological knowledge (Ruby 2000)
  • it helps develops recognition of the particular cultural practices and historical contexts that have influenced theory (Vincent 1991)
  • it can help us understand and acknowledge the collaboration and intersubjectivity through which anthropological knowledge is created (Pink 2001; Rabinow 1977)
  • it helps prevent the mysticism that anthropology has traditionally afforded itself; that modernist idea of the ‘expert’ who must translate for the lesser mortals (Bowman 1997)
  • it helps us improve our practice: better understanding ourselves helps us better understand others (Scholte 1974)

So, at the beginning of term, all us trainee visual anthropologists were loaned Sony Handycams, the main aim of which was to record video diaries.  Mike would like it to be every day; in reality, I recorded a few in the week before we had to show them as part of a class exercise, and haven’t done anymore until the other day, when I felt the need to talk about my placement, which has all gone a little pear-shaped.  Filming yourself is an odd concept to the average person – we are happy to film and question other people, and many of us are happy to be filmed by others ourselves.  But I find something just a little bit disconcerting about sitting in front of a camera and talking to it.  Actually, that’s not the odd bit; I often talk randomly out load with no one around.  The odd part is pressing the record button.  Suddenly it feels like what I say matters.  Suddenly I am conscious of my lip patterns, my eye movements, my voice (which sounds spookily like my sister’s)…  It’s a video diary, so why should I be conscious of these things, and why feel slightly uncomfortable in doing it?  There’s no-one else here.  No-one else can hear what I’m saying.  No-one can see me.  Diaries are private…

Of course that’s not true.  Part of the reason I made the video was because I wanted to record what’s going on in my placement.  But partly, and if I’m honest, primarily, I made the video because I wanted to write a post about reflection in anthropology, and embedding a short extract of a video diary would help me do that.  I was conscious of a future audience before I even sat down to film.  The audience for this video is tiny; one or two people, maybe a few at most (yes, sad but true, my blog surprisingly hasn’t yet made it into the top 10 yet).  Previously I filmed video diaries to show my classmates.  These are all people I respect, and would like to have their respect back.  So what I say does matter, because I want people to like, respect, or at least see something interesting in what I say.  Holliday (2000) talks about video diaries being used either as performance or of confession.  I think there is more to it.  When I think about what I want to achieve with the video diary, it becomes a reflection on how I see myself, how I want to be seen by others, and, something not at all under my control at all: what other people will take from watching the video, which may be more about them than about me anyway.  And in the back of my mind there is also the remote possibility of one of the people from my placement seeing the film, and seeing my frustration at the moment.  There become several layers of meaning, aims and aspirations being attached to the film: its usefulness in illustrating a point; my hope that it helps me achieve good grades; the hope that it will prompt action from other people; the fact that it will improve my practice in the future.

So, here’s an excerpt of the current entry; the saga of the missing drama group…:

Filmed using the Sony Handcam, at home in Canterbury, November 26th, 2010.

So what did I learn from making and viewing this film?

  • The lighting is rubbish
  • There are undoubtedly more flattering angles to film myself from
  • I need a hair cut.
  • Video cameras should have screens immediately under their lenses, so my eyes don’t slide sideways…

And on a less superficial level, it has raised interesting questions about where we place ourselves as filmmakers, particularly anthropological filmmakers, as we conduct research. How much of what we make is aimed at an audience?  How particular are we about who that audience is (I discovered in class this morning that I am very picky about who I want my films to be appreciated by and that is not by the kind of people who like Jeremy Kyle)? What is the agenda of the film and how I choose to distribute it?  Who is it useful for?  Is it useful at all?

Self-reflection in anthropology is as much a trend in theory as other dominant thoughts were in the past.  Practice always develops out of reactions to current theories, and dominant trends only change when there is a paradigm shift in the discipline at large (Vincent 1991).  We are still very much embedded in the theoretical practices and norms of our times – right now it is all about recognising your own values and background, and on a reflection of how this affects your work.  Does this lead to a better anthropology?  I am not sure.  It certainly leads to a more personal anthropology (as advocated by for example Rapport or Cohen).  It also leads to an anthropology where I make value judgements on author’s work based partly on their self reflection; it leads to an interesting exposition of methods in anthropology.  But I am not sure it is an improvement, maybe more just a shift in practice and expectations.  Much older work, which does not include this reflexion, is still interesting and useful.  Much of the newer work that is written in this way is self indulgent and boring.   The key is inter-subjectivity wherever possible; collaboration, shared anthropology, whatever you want to call it – which aids the hermeneutic circle; as Scholte long ago pointed out: understanding others helps us understand ourselves; understanding ourselves helps us critique ourselves; this improves our practice, which helps us better understand others (1974: 448).  In anthropology, as in sport, reflecting on what we do can be a tool for understanding and improving our understanding, and better acknowledging the inter-subjective nature of our practice.  Now, I’m off to book a haircut…

References:

Bowman, G. (1997) ‘Identifying versus identifying with ‘the Other’: Reflections on the siting of the subject in anthroological discourse’ in James, A., Hockey, J. & Dawson, A. After Writing Culture: Epistemology and Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology. London: Routledge.  Pp 34 – 51.

Holliday, R. (2000) We’ve been framed: visualising methodology.  Sociological Review, Vol 48(4): 503 – 522.

Pink, S. (2001) More visualising, more methodologies: on video, reflexivity and qualitative research.  The Sociological Review, Vol 49: 586 – 599.

Rabinow, P. (1977) Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ruby, J. (2000) Picturing Culture: Explorations of Film and Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Scholte, B. (1974) ‘Towards a Reflexive and Critical Anthropology’ in Hymes, D. (ed.) Reinventing Anthropology.  New York: Vintage Books.  Pp 430 – 457.

Vincent (1991) ‘Engaging Historicism’ in Fox, R. (ed.) Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present. School of American Research Advanced Seminar Series.  Santa Fe: SAR.  Pp 45 – 58.



It’s all in the cut.

Over the last couple of days we have been enthralled, educated and exhausted by a Final Cut Pro workshop from Alan Miller, a renowned editor, director, writer and producer.  According to Alan, film resides in the cuts, and comedy transitions are a bad thing.  That much I can grasp (although I secretly love tacky transitions).  I’m sure once I have the hang of it, FCP will be an amazing tool.  Right now however, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed; I can just about figure out the still and moving cameras and the sound recorder now, but the time before I have anything substantial worth editing seems a little distance to me right now!  However, over the last couple of weeks I have been working with the Feisty Pigeons, a fourth year cpp theatre group (yes, the same ones I did the contact improvisation and Candoco workshops with), who are preparing a play for the end of term.  Using some of the material I have filmed of Alex Fleetham, who’s character Tito is on the edge of suicide, Amy Coggins and I put this short film together as part of the workshop yesterday.  See what you think:

Filmed using the Sony Pro-am, a mix of handheld and tripod, between 1st and 10th November, in Darwin’s Missing Link, University of Kent, edited using FCP on 17th November, 2010.

Alex’s characterisation is quite beautiful, and I especially like the section of dramatic crying.  You probably noticed that the initial audio is a little fuzzy and difficult to hear.  I recorded it in a feedback session for the students which took place in one half of a studio whilst another group were practising in the other half, hence the background noise.  In the future I would use one of the Tascam DR-1 sound recorders as well as the camera, with the Tascam close to the people speaking, to help capture a clearer track.  And as well as better sound recording, it also illustrated to me the importance of directed filming, as opposed to indiscriminate filming, which produces so much information, that it is hard to select the most relevant / useful parts.  But otherwise, as a basic introduction to editing, I think we did alright: we cut scenes, added text, mixed music and separated audio from its pictures to use in different sections.  Ok, I am slightly fibbing here: Alan actually mixed our music and added the text because we were running short of time and Amy and I were just a little bit slow, but we were with him all the way! Hopefully the Feisty Pigeons like it too, and it will be of use to Alex, if only for his own enjoyment.


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