Guarding The Gates!

12746348_10208310746867468_1406534341_nShooting off from the awesome film exercises, it became relevant to me that initiating and maintaining contact is of great importance. So I set out to email the proprietress of the location I had chosen to inform her about the details of my research. Fortunately I am acquainted with someone who works at the restaurant and she was able to speak to the owner on my behalf. In addition to this, I sent the establishment an email to brief them of my project.

On sending the email I was thoughtful in my choice of words as I was aware that anthropological jargon can be difficult to comprehend. I was worried about my anthropological jargon creating something that did not exist. In seeking out this particular establishment I was looking for some sort of family corporate culture. However I was wary of stating this from the on set, in fear of the establishment (consciously or unconsciously) creating a culture in order to make this film. I was more interested in seeing what was already present there.
Every anthropologist should acknowledge this phenomenon before going into the field and an element of this is communicated when gaining access.

Sending my first email was successful and I got an inviting reply, and I was instructed to schedule a time which would be convenient for me to come and discuss further my project.  Unfortunately I was not expecting to hear no response from her for 15 days! How am I supposed to plan my project in the absence of input from the owner of the restaurant. In despair I am reminded of John Campbell being rejected and ended up studying the Sarawaitingtkastani instead. It brings a bit of worry but a greater amount of excitement to how this project is going to unfold.

……………Excitement over!! It has now been  more than 20 days, I shall have to make like Mr Campbell and find something and someone else to film.

 

 

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Exercising Film

Generally speaking, anthropologists do some research  before heading out into the field. This involves copious amounts of reading, which is in exception of up to 8 years of education spen24463123529_a1ece31bf0t at least one university. I have the privilege of experiencing a snapshot of fieldwork with this project.

The objective is to go out somewhere and find people (preferably alive) and film them. Seeing as none of us were professional film makers, we got tasked with practicing our film and photography skills. Unconventionally, the task was not concerning the quality of the photographs or the film but more so our comfortability with the filming process.

It was immensely daunting to run around the Marlowe building taking pictures and filming random people with our symbolic cameras. Yes you read that right, the cameras which look like cameras but they do not function as real cameras. A whole class of students armed with “symbolic cameras” facing their fears of taking the authoritative role of camera person.

It was a very anthropological experience, some were met with rejection, others met with blank stares of astonishment among many other reactions. What my team and I noticed was that people performed differently when they believed they were under the gaze of a real camera. This was specifically interesting because we had a range of symbolic cameras upon our person. Some of those cameras happened to look real and others happened to look not so real. However to some of the people who were subject to being under the gaze of the camera were not aware that there was only one real camera being used.24202706564_30a812f4a5_o

Exercising our film prowess was beneficial as I personally did not think about the initial interaction between camera, subject and cameraman. More importantly how this could affect the final film project in terms of the pace and content of the video. This exercise also alluded to gate keeping as a concept which I will be discussing in another post.

Two Sights, Okay Maybe Three.

argus-II-bionic-eye-second-sight-537x331One 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 photo wallahschoice 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.

 

 

Symbolic Camera

DSC_0053The first assignment we were assigned for this module was to create a symbolic camera. This camera was meant to be a symbol of a real camera, and therefore could be made in any shape or form and from whatever materials we desired to use. Our starting pistol took form in looking at cameras made by previous students from years ago. The prospect of contributing to this archive  was enough motivation to make something amazing.

The following days were filled with torment. Indecisiveness caught me off guard and had me worried for days on end. When will I make the camera?, How would I go about such engineering and architecture? What would I make the camera out of? What camera model would I be working from? What story would my camera be telling? So many questions!!! All of which brought a lot of direction to mind. However it felt more like a road packed with traffic from all corners of a road. So I made a point to sit down and make sense of it all.

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My first port of call was the  first camera I vividly remember holding. I was 16 years old at the time and this camera belonged to my Mother. I can’t remember the model but it was a small silver box that became my companion at all memorable events. The colour of the camera body almost blended in with the flash and this relationship with light fed into my inspiration. I drew even more inspiration from my current camera, which is a Nikon D3300. The size of my camera plays an important role in distancing my face from that which is being photographed. This allows me to almost disappear from sight and let all attention be placed on the object of photography/film.

Keeping these things in mind I went ahead with a design for my symbolic camera. I choose an old amazon box, foil, some clear plastic and plain white paper to be my equipment for this project. The white background of the camera was chosen to draw attention away from the camera itself. The significance of a camera is in the lens and thus the photograph that is being taken. Therefore the too much attention should not be drawn to the camera. The foil covering the inside of the camera acts as a reflector of the light feeding in from the camera lens and the viewfinder. As it is a symbolic camera it cannot take real pictures. However I thought it would be significant to the task to ensure the camera could perform at least one function.DSC_0052

You cannot quite see clearly through the viewfinder to the outer lens, but the light passes through and is reflected in the camera. This assignment led me to draw more thought on the amount of intelligence that goes into creating a functioning camera. More so I found myself thinking about the skill that goes into handling such  an instrument. It was at the point I first found myself marvelling at what equipment I would be graced with for this project.