One interesting aspect of anthropology is how theory is made practical through ethnography. This practicality manifests itself in the ways we think about ethnographic data as well as the form in which we approach such data. Having decided that I wanted to make a film about food, I was reminded of a film about photography I watched last year. Photowallahs is a film about the cultural and personal meanings of photographs as depicted by members of a town called Mussoorie (India). In the film, the MacDougalls learn about how people react under the gaze of the camera and how this differs across various parts of the small hill station (Mussoorie) they based their ethnography on. The main point I drew from the film when thinking about my film project was people being filmed whilst they were either being photographed or taking photograph. Capturing someone in action makes a film more visually appealing.
So, on reflecting about their film, it occurred to me that I could use a camera, to film people cooking and talking about food. This film project would then be viewed by people other than the participants. Now there is a whole lot of seeing there, from the point of my audience, they will be seeing me through my choice in shooting and editing the video. The audience will also see the actual content of the video project as belonging to the separate individuals who were involved in the process of filming. In addition to this, there is a third view, which is actually not visual, it comes across as abstract and speculative. This is held by myself as the film maker and those viewing the final project. The view is made in retrospective questions such as, will my participants have acted differently if they were not under the gaze of the camera. Effectively questioning what images and footage the camera lens allows to exist in the form of the final project.
Being aware of these thoughts as a film maker, reminds me that I will be very present in whatever the final project looks like. It also alerts me to take care that the camera is not obscuring anything that might be significant for others to see. My current thoughts to culling this camera blocking effect, is to make the participants as comfortable as possible. Hopefully that will produce what the participants intend to produce, as opposed to what they think I require from them.