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Anandi Salinas

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November 1, 2016

VAR SUPPLEMENTS: Stephanie Sadre-Orafai on “Models, Measurement, and the Problem of Mediation”

November 1, 2016 | By | No Comments

Stephanie Sadre-Orafai on “Models, Measurement, and the Problem of Mediation”

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. One of the key ideas in this article is that while we think of numbers as “objective,” we must understand the theories of mediation in which they are enmeshed. As media, number regimes do not move seamlessly across different domains (i.e., from global health to fashion modeling). Choose a profession you know well or a domain of your everyday life (e.g., dating) and catalog the different uses and meanings of numbers in these contexts. What theories of numbers are built into these practices? What are numbers opposed to in these contexts? What do numbers do in these contexts that other representations cannot? Are numbers vulnerable to other kinds of evidence in these contexts? How are numbers used to construct certain kinds of bodies? What kinds of bodes are these? Working in groups, compare your results. How would the rules and logics of numbers in one domain or profession work in another?
  1. Watch the news coverage of model BMI-threshold bans in Spain (2006), Israel (2012), and France (2015). How did coverage evolve as the ban was taken up in these different national contexts? What changed? Why? How were models portrayed in these news clips and videos? Who were regulators seeking to protect? How did other issues, like immigration, get tied into these discussions?

a. Spain Bans Overly Skinny Models from Fashion Shows (2006)

SOURCE: NPR
LINK: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6103615

b. Israel bans too-skinny models (2012)

SOURCE: CNN
LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvHDsLNhpmo

c. France divides the fashion world by banning skinny models (2015)

SOURCE: Telegraph.com
LINK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11514613/France-divides-the-fashion-world-by-banning-skinny-models.html

  1. Watch “Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color” (2007) and/or read the comments in Jezebel.com’s collected statistics on racial representation at New York Fashion Week (2014). What kinds of arguments are being made here by the panelists/authors/commenters and how are numbers being used to support or refute them?

a. Out of Fashion: The Absence of Color (2007)

SOURCE: LIVE from the NYPL, panel discussion on the dwindling numbers of black models in high fashion with Bethann Hardison, Lori Goldstein, David Ralph, Tracy Reese, and James Scully
LINK: https://www.nypl.org/audiovideo/out-fashion-absence-color

b. New York Fashion Week: Diversity Talks But White Faces Walk (2014)

SOURCE: Jezebel.com, collected statistics on racial representation of models at New York Fashion Week
LINK: http://jezebel.com/new-york-fashion-week-diversity-talks-but-white-faces-1522416724

 

Anandi Salinas

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November 1, 2016

VAR SUPPLEMENTS: Patrick Sutherland on learning documentary photography and constructing photo essays from groups of photographs

November 1, 2016 | By | No Comments

Extending the Frame:  some notes on learning documentary photography and constructing photo essays from groups of photographs

Patrick Sutherland

The editors of Visual Anthropology Review invited me to write this essay because they are keen to encourage the submission of photo essays for potential publication within the journal. It is designed as a companion piece to my essay in VAR (issue 32:2, 2016) and offers some advisory notes to support the submission of photo essays to the journal.

Photographs in photo essays are constructed from the continually changing world around us. They are made by photographers rather than just captured by cameras. Consequently they often reveal the concerns and personal perspectives of the photographer as well as recording what is framed by the technology. Through reflection on my own personal experiences of learning documentary photography and subsequently teaching the subject, I suggest how an understanding of different approaches to making photographic images can be linked directly to the editorial processes involved in presenting these images.

The Newport School of documentary photography

I studied documentary photography at Newport College of Art in Wales in the late 1970s. At that time, the core taught program consisted of a sequence of linked assignments entitled “Man at Work”, “Relationships” and “Establishing Shots”, delineating three kinds of image that could be combined to make a simple three picture story. These forms of photographic imagery had been identified by the course founder David Hurn as building blocks for a conventional magazine photo essay.  Other important ingredients included portraits and close up details.

Fundamental to the Newport philosophy was the understanding that documentary photography was best learned by actually making pictures: by producing work, shot in real situations, and presenting it for feedback within a supportive, critical environment. For every shoot, students were expected to present edited and marked up contact sheets from a couple of rolls of film. These were presented at “crit sessions”, one to one tutorials with a member of the staff team. The assignments were undertaken one after the other: you would spend three weeks or more photographing “Man at Work”, returning for crits on a daily basis before moving on to the next assignment.

In these sessions, a tutor would examine the contact sheets, looking at the whole sheet and then the images, frame by frame, and respond to your individual edit, choice of the best frames and overall approach to photographing. They would discuss what they felt worked and what did not work, about the framing and your shooting methods. Tutors would remark on the position of the camera and how by moving the camera backwards or forwards, up or down, or from one side to the other photographers control the position and arrange the distribution of the different elements within the frame. They would consider the timing of the exposures, whether there were better potential moments to be captured. They would also comment on whether they felt you were moving around too much rather than staying with a situation and letting it develop in front of you or not moving enough and failing to explore and vary the pictures. Finally they would note whether they felt you were overshooting, taking too many pictures without thinking and needed to “tighten up” or undershooting, being over cautious, rigid and needed to “loosen up”. You would than be sent out to take more pictures, often returning to photograph the same person or situation again.

As students, you were encouraged to respond to and select situations that felt rich in visual potential and then allow things to emerge and develop in front of the camera: sometimes shooting several frames without significantly changing position, but always attempting to make each frame work. This was an important lesson because this approach acknowledges and embraces the element of chance and allows for the unexpected. This is a key ingredient of documentary and reportage photography.

The editing process was based on meticulous frame by frame comparison. Minor details of gesture or expression, the tilt of a head, the position of a hand, the direction in which the eyes were pointing, or the unexpected appearance of a figure in the background make one image more or less effective than the other: effective in terms of overall graphic structure or clarity of visual expression, in terms of conveying a particular mood or feeling or in making a specific point of importance to the ideas being communicated. These subtle visual details are the heart of reportage photography, of the kind we see in the work of Cartier-Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Susan Meiselas, Eugene Richards and many other photographers working closely with people and operating within a humanistic tradition. Importantly, this process of detailed examination of contact sheets feeds directly back into a developing understanding of what to pay attention to whilst shooting. It also highlights the expressive potential of the medium.

Students worked with a handheld 35mm analogue camera with a single fixed focal length lens (either 35mm or 50mm). Flash, high-speed film or zoom lenses were not allowed. These restrictive, almost puritanical rules had a very specific effect and were paradoxically liberating.  Working with a fixed lens rather than a zoom lens means that you have to physically move the camera in order to fill the frame with the subject matter you are photographing. As your experience grows, this process of understanding when a photograph is working becomes almost instinctive. You move around because the image you are attempting to produce demands it. Understanding where to place the camera and where to stand becomes a kind of embodied knowledge. Moving the camera or, rather, moving with the camera is fundamental to reportage photography.

Working with a standard or slightly wide-angle lens when photographing people means that you need to be close to them to fill the frame. Consequently you have to communicate directly and develop working relationships. These social skills become an essential part of the role. Photographers have to develop the ability to enter social situations and to remain in these situations whilst they are working. This obviously parallels the anthropological methodology of participant observation. Photographers have to be able to move around the situation they are documenting and yet remain distanced enough from it to be observing it and producing images rather than being drawn in.

For the assignment “Man at Work,” you were required to photograph an individual person working. The aim of the assignment was to produce a single effective photograph of someone doing something: a man digging a hole in the road or a woman neurosurgeon in an operating theatre for example. You were trying to create a frame that would show a recognizable person and also articulate the essence of the work being undertaken. Body posture and the position of the hands were key elements to pay attention to. The choice of worker, activity and location was left to the individual student.  From the start you were encouraged to pursue your own interests, connections and ideas and through this to develop your own approach to the medium, but also to vary the kind of situations you were working in and gain a breadth of experience.

The subject of work is an excellent starting point for new photographers: people are often comfortable in the formal occupational roles they inhabit. If the work is busy or engrossing they soon lose awareness of the camera. Photographs of people doing things are important in photo essays. They introduce individual people and highlight the socio-economic roles they play, the positions they occupy or the activities they are associated with. However my memory of my first assignment at Newport is primarily of embarrassment. My inexperience felt contagious. I had chosen to photograph a cobbler working in a very cramped space. I was uncomfortable with the equipment I was using and concentrated so much on his hands that I managed to leave his head out of the frame for most of the photographs. It is profoundly peculiar behaviour to point a camera at another human being for an extended period of time and it takes time for this to become normalised.

What became clear later was that we were all learning a whole raft of important skills within which the technical, visual and photographic aspects were only a part. Learning social and interpersonal skills, gaining confidence in approaching people and getting access to social situations, gatherings and institutions. Learning how to negotiate our way into other people’s lives and most importantly how to stay there long enough to be able to photograph over an extended period of time. Photographing people now feels like an extraordinary privilege, having the opportunity to observe human activities at close quarters. For a photographer like myself and many of those whom I have taught and know, photography is like a passport into other worlds. This is one of the principal motivations for practitioners, the potential of being able to step outside your own day to day existence and experience other people’s worlds and perspectives.

The next assignment was entitled “Relationships”, essentially an assignment to photograph the visual manifestations of human relationships.  Starting off with relationships between two people and looking out for those clues of gesture, posture and facial expression that articulate the nature of the relationship taking place. This was immediately more complex than photographing people working. Moments when the relationship between people is expressed visually are often fleeting and transitory. One of the important lessons here was the possibility of searching for something very specific and perhaps ephemeral, rather than just mechanically recording what was continuously visible to everyone. Relationship photographs are important in determining the overall mood and tone within a photo essay. They can reveal complex human experiences of intimacy or alienation for example.  They can manifest the expression of human feelings and the emotional dimension of interactions as well as revealing relationships of hierarchy and power.

The final single picture assignment was to produce establishing shots. This kind of image is concerned with place and space.  It also introduces the idea of pacing within groupings of photographs: of having photographs that are taken from different distances and show a different sense of scale. The choice of establishing shot depends substantially on the story that is being told, the fundamental ideas being communicated. It locates the other photographs in a particular place or environment. So this assignment introduced the idea of constructing a narrative through several photographs, of trying to communicate a story through visual means.

After this assignment the students were tasked with producing short picture stories: groupings of images on a specific theme, created from the three visual elements described above. Other kinds of images like portraits and close up details could be added to extend the story and vary the visual structure of the narrative. In this way, the experience of constructing smaller picture stories gradually develops into undertaking longer photo essays and documentary projects.

The Newport system was quite widely criticized. It was seen by some as being old fashioned, perhaps even reactionary, harking back to the dying traditions of magazine photojournalism within the publications Picture Post and Life magazine rather than aligning itself with contemporary trends and emerging practices within documentary photography.   It was seen by many as being reductive, simplistic and tending towards the formulaic rather than encouraging individual creativity.

Of course the world cannot be broken down into such neat typologies. But the Newport system provides a template that can be applied to many situations as well as a set of rules that can be reacted against. Thinking of different ways of making pictures encourages a process of reflection and analysis and advances the development of workable visual strategies. In complex and rapidly changing social situations it is often difficult to decide what to photograph, what not to photograph and where to position the frame.

The system is also flexible enough to be employed for approaches other than photojournalism. In particular it offers clear potential for anthropologists interested in recording aspects of the social world for later analysis or equally for undertaking a photographic documentation in order to present research in a visual format. Such photo essays offer visual anthropologists a set of tools and an overall framework within which to operate and experiment. Working closely with people over an extended period of time, observing and recording the minutiae of human behavior brings the photo essay very close to the ethnographic methodologies of social scientists.

The photo essay is not the only approach to producing documentary photography in social situations. Indeed it is not that commonly employed by contemporary photographers.  Other approaches include working serially, producing an extended series of photographs that are structurally and formally similar: a group of interiors, portraits or still life details for example.

Contemporary digital cameras are extraordinarily sophisticated technologies. They remove much of the craft, skill and knowledge once needed to produce high quality images. But as yet they cannot make essential decisions about framing or understand what is significant and worth photographing.  And for some photographers, there is another issue. Digital technologies produce images with a similar overall tonal quality and feel. Many fine art documentary photographers are using larger format film cameras or other analogue technologies as a reaction to this tendency.  In an increasingly competitive field, documentary photographers increasingly want to assert individual authorship over their images: a recognizable authorial style is important in the current marketplace.  This clearly clashes with the idea of documentary as a relatively neutral and value-free process of recording. It also runs contrary to anthropological ideas of incorporating the perspectives of others into visual representations of the world.

The Craft of Editing

Editing single pictures from a shoot, whether by selecting individual frames from contact sheets or choosing between digital files displayed on a computer screen is a process of reduction, of weeding out the weaker images and choosing the more effective images. But when producing a short picture story, a longer photo essay or a documentary project, editing becomes a process of construction, of bringing together different kinds of images and different design elements to build a varied visual narrative. The specifics of this process depends partly on the nature and the scale of the intended output: whether it is for a magazine essay, a book, an exhibition for a gallery wall, a projection at a festival, or a portfolio on a website.

For many of these outputs, editing consists primarily of arranging a linear sequence of images: choosing an image to start and finish the sequence and then ordering the other images that fall in between.  There are no formal rules or guidelines to adhere to. It is usually a process of experimentation, of trial and error.  Personally I find it easier to work with actual printed images rather than working on a computer screen. I find it easier to be able to shuffle small prints around on a table or floor, experimenting with different sequences and allowing for the unexpected.

Although the sequence from start to finish is a fundamental element of most published photo essays, the format, whether in a magazine or a book, allows for the possibility of more complex connections between images:  images facing each other across opposing pages, images above or below other images.  It also allows for substantial variations in scale. Horizontal images on a single page, images running across the gutter but with a white border, and images bled off all four sides of a double page spread. Photo essays commonly employ visual variety as an editorial and design strategy and avoid repetition unless repetition is a key concept of the essay. Most importantly, a photo essay is substantially more than a portfolio of the photographer’s best images.

From my experience, the final form of an essay often emerges from a process neither entirely rational nor completely controlled.  It is of course really important to understand the individual images you are selecting, to know why they are effective and what they contribute to a larger grouping.  However, subtle and unpredicted visual and narrative connections appear between images randomly placed next to each other when editing. Shifts of meaning occur when the structure and sequence of a narrative is changed: a different ordering of the same group of images changes the overall visual statement. By altering the placement of an image in a sequence, you alter the interrelationship between the images. By changing the size of individual images in the wider grouping you are changing the emphasis placed upon these images within the overall narrative construction. Such interplay involves not just the rational grouping of images by subject matter and theme but the emotive connections made between images in terms of their mood and tone. It is always informative to pair images together and see what happens when they are viewed in context with each another. Unexpected formal connections emerge: visual elements echoing each other or the dynamics of gesture and graphic shape that lead from one image to another within a layout.

Once again, there are no formal rules to follow, but you can get a great sense of the possibilities of this kind of editing by looking at a wide variety of documentary photography books. As an exercise in the possibilities of presentational form, it is worth trying to analyse how and why the photographer has sequenced the images from beginning to end, where the images sit on the page and how the images vary in scale, if at all, within the overall narrative structure. Some books use only one size and shape of image throughout, for example Martin Parr’s Commonsense (1999) or Gilles Peress’ The Silence (1995) both of which use images bled to the edge of the page but to very different effect. Joel Sternfeld’s On this Site: Landscape in Memoriam (1996) or Mark Power’s The Shipping Forecast (1996) use one size of image on the same position on the page, each framed with a white margin. In contrast, some books employ substantial variation in the size of images, for example Sebastião Salgado’s Workers: Archaeology of the Industrial Age (1993) or Sahel: L’Homme en Détresse (1986) both of which function like extended magazine photo essays but reproduced in book format. Some books use very substantial captioning, for example Philip Jones Griffiths’ Vietnam Inc (1971) or Taryn Simon’s An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007). Others have no captions at all, for example Josef Koudelka’s Gypsies (1975).

But producing the final edit for a photo essay is not merely a question of sequencing and presentation on the page. During the editing process, you have to come back repeatedly to the basic question of what the essay is about, what you as a photographer are trying to communicate and whether the final structure succeeds in this ambition.

Photojournalism, Documentary Photography and Visual Anthropology

I have been running a workshop on the MA in Visual Anthropology at Manchester University’s Granada Centre for nine years, and am currently a member of the Photography Committee at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London. I am interested in the potential overlap between visual anthropology and the practices of documentary photography and photojournalism.

Each of these fields is fluid and increasingly difficult to define.  I think of documentary photography as being a broad territory encompassing many approaches to still photography, but at its core is the process of recording and description.  There is no inherent subject matter for documentary photography, nor are there obvious limits to its attempts to describe the world through visual images.  Perhaps it can be understood as embracing the genre of photojournalism, which is a kind of applied documentary photography, informed historically by a journalistic and news agenda but now commonly operating independently of its traditional outlets.  And perhaps the key aspect defining visual anthropology as a form of documentary practice utilizing still photography is the conceptual framework within which the practice is situated rather than what the specific individual images taken by a visual anthropologist actually look like.  I suspect that the anthropological nature of still photographic practice is to be found less within the individual imagery and more within the interrelationships between groups of images and with their relationship to accompanying text.

In this context it is revealing to examine Danny Lyon’s recently reissued book Conversations with the Dead (1971) a project about Texas penal institutions in the late 1960s. On one level this is classic photo essay that could easily have been published in a magazine and in that context would have been viewed as a work of photojournalism.  But Lyon presented the work in an extended book format, a clear decision to retain editorial control over the sequencing and presentation, and the use of captions and texts.

The book is constructed not as magazine layouts but as a simple linear sequence with images positioned on the right-hand page, one single picture after another, and minimal captions on the left. The photographs start with a filmic sequence of prisoners arriving and entering the penitentiary.  This sequence functions not only to describe the journey from outside to inside, from freedom to imprisonment, but it also takes the viewer, through the experience of the photographer, deep inside the culture of the prison.

It is revealing to examine where Lyon positions himself.  Much of the time he is on the ground in amongst the prisoners and photographing from within looking out or looking up. This deep immersion within the community he is documenting adds significantly to the sense of an inmate’s perspective, especially noticeable when he photographs the prison staff.

There is substantial repetition in the overall sequence.  A magazine photo essay might tend to avoid the replication of similar kinds of pictures but in the context of a longer book such recurring usage amplifies the sense of regulation and institutionalized procedure. There are several images of shakedowns, of the strip searches of labourers re-entering prison from the fields. They detail the relentless day to day indignities suffered by felons. The repetition adds to the sense of the unremitting loss of individual dignity and invasion of personal space.

Conversations with the Dead includes the letters and paintings and even the execution order of an inmate called Billy McCune (McCune was eventually released). They open up another avenue of communication, giving the reader a bleak sense of the hopeless and remorseless brutality of the penal system of America at that time.  They also add significantly to communicating the worldview of the prisoners being documented. This commitment to expressing the views and perspective of the inmates takes Lyons’ work further away from photojournalism or conventional documentary practice and much closer to a work of visual anthropology.  The anthropological quality of the work is therefore located not within the specific single images but in their cumulative effect, in the photographer’s insider and immersed standpoint and perhaps equally in the author’s collaboration with McCune.

Bibliography

Jones Griffiths, Philip. 1971. Vietnam Inc. New York: Collier.

Koudelka, Josef. 1975. Gypsies. New York: Aperture.

Lyon, Danny. 1971. Conversations with the Dead. New York: Henry Holt and Co.

Mitidieri, Dario. 1994. Children of Bombay. Stockport: Dewi Lewis.

Parr, Martin. 1999. Commonsense. Stockport: Dewi Lewis.

Peress, Gilles. 1995. The Silence. New York: Scalo.

Power, Mark. 1996. The Shipping Forecast. London: Zelda Cheatle Press.

Salgado, Sebastião. 1993. Workers: Archaeology of the Industrial Age. London: Phaidon.

Salgado, Sebastião. 1986. Sahel: L’Homme en Détresse. France: Prisma Presse.

Salgado, Sebastião. 1986. Other Americas. New York: Pantheon.

Simon, Taryn. 2007. An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar. Göttingen: Steidl.

Sternfeld, Joel. 1996. On this Site: Landscape in Memoriam. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Aynur Kadir

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October 25, 2016

Master Class & Workshop with Director Camilla Nielsson (4-0320)

October 25, 2016 | By | No Comments

Master Class & Workshop with Director Camilla Nielsson

Friday November 18, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

 Location: Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 205B
Abstract:
The Society for Visual Anthropology (SVA) is offering for the first time a “master class”/workshop for students and early career filmmakers. Inaugurating what the SVA hopes will be an annual event, the master class/workshop will this year be offered by Camilla Nielsson (Upfront Film, Denmark), anthropologist and director of the award-winning documentary “Democrats” (2014). Nielsson will give a 2-hour master class on documentary filmmaking strategies, including concept, story and development, production and postproduction, and how best to convey anthropological intent throughout the filmmaking process and final product. The master class will be open to both SVA and non-SVA members in the early career or student category.
Learning Objective 1:

develop film ideas and concepts with anthropological intent that work!

Learning Objective 2:

evaluate the pros and cons of different filmmaking strategies for particular project settings.

Learning Objective 3:

plan out high end ethnographic and documentary film work with a low end budget.

Organizer
Ulla Dalum Berg (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
Email: uberg@rci.rutgers.edu

Organizer
Stephanie Takaragawa (Chapman University)
Email: stephanie.takaragawa@gmail.com

Presenter
Camilla Nielsson (Upfront Films)
Email:cn@upfrontfilms.dk
Aynur Kadir

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October 21, 2016

Multimodal Ethnography and the Possibilities for Engaged Anthropology

October 21, 2016 | By | No Comments

In our scholarship, we strive to strike a balance between anthropological theory-building and social engagement. To do so we use digital technology – inexpensive cameras and social media platforms – in our respective ethnographic projects. Our turn to the digital began during graduate school when we, along with faculty and fellow graduate students, imagined and developed camra. camra is a University of Pennsylvania organization dedicated to multimodal and community engaged research. Here we briefly discuss the ways in which digital technologies provide avenues toward achieving a more collaborative and engaged anthropology. Collaboration has been part and parcel of our discipline since its inception. The digital offers a way to explicitly broaden the scope of collaborative engagement in ways that allow not only for greater participant involvement but also to foster cross-disciplinary projects that put anthropologists in conversation with colleagues in the academy and beyond who grapple with the pressing issues of our time.

Taken from Sweet Tea, portraying E. Patrick Johnson’s performative work on the lives of Black Gay men in the South and his long term relationships with them (2015).
Sweet Tea, portraying E. Patrick Johnson’s performative work on the lives of Black gay men in the South and his long term relationships with them. Photo courtesy Nora Gross

camra was launched in 2011 as a forum connecting graduate students with established scholars interested in legitimizing non-textual production. Our small collective first organized a speaker series followed by a media festival at UPenn that celebrates scholarship at the intersection of ethnography and the audio-visual.  As we developed camra, Philadelphia community-based organizations were eager to learn, partake in and integrate our digital approach to knowledge production. Various institutional actors within and outside of the University of Pennsylvania reached out to us to see if camra members were interested in partnering to create audio-visual work. Projects emerged that allowed camra members to experiment with a digital methodology before they began their dissertation work.

From Dattatreyan’s collaborative film project, Cry Out Loud: Hafes is getting to know the equipment on a wintry day in Delhi (2013).
From Dattatreyan’s collaborative film project, Cry Out Loud: Hafes is getting to know the equipment on a wintry day in Delhi.Photo courtesy E. Gabriel Dattatreyan

In 2013, two camra members developed a filmic and photographic essay on the after-effects of an asbestos plant in Ambler, Pennsylvania (Tarditi and Zuberi). camra members also worked with the Penn School of Design and the Ward to create two short oral history films about Tindley Temple Church, one of the oldest Black Methodist churches in Philadelphia. Other projects that emerged include an HBO-funded short documentary series, two experimental metafilms featuring the travels of a Rastafarian community in South Africa, a PEW-funded film on scientific racism and the Morton Skull collection, the film project Sweet Teabased on E. Patrick Johnson’s performative scholarship concerning the lives of Black gay men in the south and a curated installation in collaboration with Ethnographic Terminalia.

Shankar with students as they begin participatory photography project (2013).
Shankar and students’ participatory photography project. Photo courtesy Naveen Kumar

camra influenced each of our unique audio-visual ethnographic projects as well. In 2012, Dattatreyan began an ethnographic project in Delhi, India with young migrants who were coming of age in an era of post-economic liberalization. He produced several music videos with his youthful participants as well as a feature length film with a group of young Somali refugees, focusing on the racialization of Africans who make the city their home. They screened the film at Khoj Arts in South Delhi to a large audience soon after a series of violent racialized incidents against Africans living in South Delhi. The screening fostered a dialogue around the politics of difference amongst a broad spectrum of South Delhi’s residents. Dattatreyan’s forays into audio-visual projects enabled participant driven ethnographic opportunities, created public discussion around pressing social issues and have fostered ongoing collaborative projects with Delhi based artists and academics around the growing salience of race and racism in urban India.

In 2013, Shankar began research in Bangalore, India working with both NGO personnel and rural youth to understand the changing nature of development. He conducted a participatory film and photography project intended to complicate simplistic representations of village life. Youth in one field site worked in groups of three to articulate what they found curious about their rapidly changing lives. They effectively reversed a dominant gaze that traditionally saw them as impoverished, deficient, and “in-need-of-development” through their playful performances on and off-screen. The collaboration also produced a traveling photography exhibit mounted at their school as well as several university contexts. Shankar’s theoretical insights were heavily influenced by these visual co-productions and shifted how he articulated ideas of aesthetics, auteurship and value.

From Shankar’s participatory photography project: Naveen, ninth standard student, takes shadow selfie against the backdrop of his home (2013).
Naveen, ninth standard student, takes shadow selfie against the backdrop of his home. Photo courtesy Naveen Kumar

Both camra and our work parallel the multimodal turn in anthropology. Ethnography, as a method by which to understand and engage the world, creates opportunities for collaborative knowledge ventures. We suggest that the digital image is opening the aperture of social life in a way not seen before. What we once perceived as bound and local is now clearly saturated with global connection. Here we use aperture and saturation to point to the relationship between the ways we see as anthropologists and the choices we make when we take photographs or film. What our work with camra has pushed us to confront is how our discipline should grow as we explicitly and consciously open its aperture in a media saturated world and strive to consciously integrate ways of seeing that challenge disciplinary understandings while engaging with the pressing problems plaguing our world. Given this, perhaps the question at hand is how we might open the aperture of anthropological knowledge without risking oversaturation. One answer, suggested here, is to consciously integrate the digital into our anthropological imagination, both as theory and practice, an approach that attends to global circulation, audience, collaborative praxis and the ethical and engaged possibilities therein.

 

 

camra members included above are Sandra Ristovska, Emily LaDue, Kate Zambon, Shashank Saini, Mariam Durrani, Matt Tarditi, Jabari Zuberi, Tali Ziv, Corrina Laughlin, E. Gabriel Dattatreyan, Nora Gross, Arjun Shankar, Andrew Hudson, Melissa Skolnick

Jens Kreinath and Jennifer Reynolds are the editors for the Society for Visual Anthropology

Aynur Kadir

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October 13, 2016

Workshop Announcement and Call for Participants

October 13, 2016 | By | No Comments

A PITCH SESSION FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMMAKERS: DEVELOPING YOUR STORY, INTEGRATING YOUR RESEARCH, FINDING FUNDING AND DISTRIBUTION   (3-0700)

Workshops

Thursday, November 17

1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

 Are you currently working on a film? Are you interested in getting feedback?
Are you interested in ethnographic film production but not yet ready to share a project in progress?
 Please join us at the AAA for a new Society for Visual Anthropology workshop:

This workshop uses the pitch format of documentary film festivals in which filmmakers pitch their work-in-progress to a jury of funders, distributors and award winning filmmakers. For each film presented, the jury will provide feedback including strategies for visualizing anthropological content and suggestions for developing your narrative and structure. Other discussion topics include conceptualizing your audience, and opportunities and strategies for funding and distribution.

Pre- Selected filmmakers will give a10 minute presentation of their project, that includes a description of the story, themes, research, visual style, plans for completion and a short video sample. Our workshop format is intended to encourage lively discussion between jurors, other workshop participants and the presenting filmmakers. Discussion will address both the effectiveness of the pitch and the substance of the film project. Jury and audience awards. The goals of the workshop:

  1. To model how to present a film project to potential collaborators, funders & distributors.
  2. To provide concrete strategies for turning research into visually compelling stories.
  3. To direct participants to funding and distribution opportunities.

Pitch jurors include:

Camilla Nielsson, Filmmaker/Anthropologist, Director, DEMOCRATS

Sarah Elder, Director, DRUMS OF WINTER: UKSUUM CAUYAI, SVA Film Festival Juror, Prof. of Documentary Film, SUNY Buffalo

Alice Apley, Executive Director, Documentary Educational Resources (DER)

Following the Pitch session, Leslie Aiello, from the Wenner-Gren Foundation will make a brief presentation about the Fejos Ethnographic Film Fellowship.

Two ways to participate in this workshop

PITCH YOUR PROJECT: Whether your project is in development, production, or in rough cut stage, this is an opportunity to get feedback on your work-in-progress from a jury with expertise in anthropological filmmaking, funding and distribution. Seven filmmakers (or filmmaking teams) will be selected to pitch projects. Those interested in presenting their film project should send a brief Pitch Proposal (see below) to Alice Apley (alice@der.org) by OCTOBER 21, 2016. The organizers will select a mix of experienced  to first-time filmmakers.

NONPITCHING WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS: As a workshop participant, you can observe the pitches,join the discussion about the projects in progress, learn from the pitches, get ideas, and plan for a future visual project.

Pitch Proposal – If you are interested in pitching, send a one-page description of your project and a video sample. It should include:

  • Short synopsis describing the significance of the project, brief discussion of the issues, themes and story you will explore, and the visual style of the film (e.g. observational, experimental documentary etc).
  • Your bio, including your unique qualifications for completing this project successfully, such as knowledge, skills, access or history of involvement with the characters and/or subject matter.
  • Please also include a short status report describing where you are in the research, development and/or production process, what work has been completed and a brief timeline.
  • Production-related photo (optional).

Also send a trailer, teaser, or clips via a single streamable link of film footage or visuals (still or moving). (7 minutes maximum)

For questions, email Alice Apley, alice@der.org or Sarah Elder, selder@buffalo.edu

Kate Hennessy

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September 23, 2016

Ohio University, Tenure-track Position

September 23, 2016 | By | No Comments

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ohio University invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track Assistant Professor of Anthropology in cultural anthropology with specialization in visual and media anthropology. Geographical area is open. Ideal candidates will conduct research that is theoretically and ethnographically innovative and will be committed to excellence in undergraduate teaching. The successful candidate will be expected to teach upper-level courses in Ethnographic Methods and Anthropological Theory and their areas of expertise, as well as Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. The successful candidate will be expected to develop and strengthen program resources and opportunities relating to museum studies, including building connections with museum programs and institutions on campus and in the community. The position start date will be August 2017.

Housed in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Anthropology Program (www.ohio.edu/socanth/anthropology/) consists of 7 full-time faculty and approximately 100 majors, and maintains a core focus on public engagement and outreach across the subfields. This focus provides opportunities for undergraduate students through community-based research and learning such as internships, field schools, independent research projects, and study abroad opportunities. Anthropology faculty teach 2 courses per semester. Ohio University (http://www.ohio.edu/) is a Research Extensive institution that serves more than 20,000 students on a residential campus in Athens, Ohio, a college town seventy-five miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio.

To apply online, go to http://www.ohiouniversityjobs.com/postings/20405 and submit a letter of application; curriculum vitae; research statement and one representative scholarly publication (attached as combined pdf file under “Research Interest”); statement of teaching philosophy; evidence of teaching effectiveness including recent teaching evaluations and two sample syllabi (attached as a combined pdf file under “Other” document type); and contact information for three professional references. Letters of recommendation will be requested after an initial screening of candidates to minimize inconvenience to applicants and referees.

Ph.D. in Anthropology is required by the start date. Review of application materials will begin on October 16, 2016 and the position will remain open until filled. For full consideration, please apply by October 31, 2016. Questions may be directed to Haley Duschinski, Search Committee Chair, at duschins@ohio.edu. All positions require final university approval.

Ohio University is committed to creating a respectful and inclusive educational and workplace environment. Ohio University is an equal access/equal opportunity and affirmative action employer with a strong commitment to building and maintaining a diverse workforce. Women, persons of color, persons with disabilities, and veterans are encouraged to apply. Ohio University is a member of the OH/Western PA/WV Higher Education Recruitment Consortium. www.ohwpawvherc.org.

Kate Hennessy

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August 14, 2016

Funded Fellowships, Filmmakers Without Borders

August 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

FILMMAKERS WITHOUT BORDERS is offering fully-funded Fellowships for visual anthropology work in Bhutan.

FILMMAKERS WITHOUT BORDERS is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides fully-funded overseas fellowships to filmmakers/art educators to teach filmmaking, media literacy, and technology to underserved students in Africa, Asia, & Latin America.

– Live and teach in Thimphu, Bhutan for 10-12 months
– Teach filmmaking, media literacy, & 21st century technology skills to students for ~25 hours/week
– Shoot/edit x10+ video vignettes
– Shoot/edit x2 short film projects

– Flights provided
– Housing provided
– Food provided
– Equipment provided

– Other Fellowships: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Honduras, India, Morocco, Navajo Nation, Nepal, Tanzania, Thailand

Apply at developingfilmmakers.org by September 15th.

 

Kate Hennessy

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July 27, 2016

VAR SUPPLEMENTS: David Kloos on Future Archives and Everyday Life in Indonesia

July 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions   

David Kloos’s “Living in a Makeshift World: Mobility, Temporariness, and Everyday Life in Indonesia” (VAR 31-2, Fall 2015) uses images from Recording the Future (RtF): An Audiovisual Archive of Everyday Life in Indonesia to analyze the experiences and agencies of domestic migrants in Indonesia. The following set of questions and resources provide teaching tools for use in both graduate and undergraduate courses.

Questions for classroom discussion
Content

  1. How does internal migration change Indonesian society? How do social, economic and political changes, including the forces of globalization, change the practices and experiences of internal migrants?
  1. Is it useful to call Indonesian domestic migrants a class, or – in the words of Johan Lindquist – part of the Indonesian “underclass”? Why (not)?
  1. What is meant with the concept of “everyday life”? How does it differ from other approaches, within anthropology and other disciplines? Do you find the concept useful as an analytical category? Why (not)?

Methods

  1. What information does RtF provide about the lives and positions of internal migrants? How does this information differ from other (oral or textual) types of information, as provided, for example, in policy reports or (written) ethnographic descriptions? What are the limitations of verbal/textual and visual sources?
  1. What can visual sources – and the rich information it contains about dress, built environment, the use of (public or private) space, material objects, and body language – tell us about the expression, salience or relative (in)visibility of class?
  1. What can a resource like RtF tell us about processes of place-making, in Indonesia and elsewhere? More generally, what do you think visual images can tell us about the social relations and meanings involved in the imagination, demarcation, or “making” of particular places (a neighborhood, a village, a house or compound, a harbor, a marketplace, shop or a restaurant, and so forth)?
  1. What are the various levels of mediation in RtF? In your opinion, how should a scholar working with this (or similar) material in order to engage in scholarly analysis, deal with its mediated nature?
  1. RtF – and related projects like the British Mass Observation project (see below) – seek to record or register aspects of human life that are generally seen as self-evident or “ordinary,” and thereby (apparently) unimportant. Can you think of aspects in your own society, that are so ordinary that no one every seems to record it or give it much thought? Would it be worth your or anyone’s while to film or write about it? What if it is forgotten? Would this be bad? Why (not)?
  1. Technology is changing fast. Around the world, many or most people have a mobile phone with a built-in camera and an internet connection. How should this affect longitudinal projects like RtF? Is it still necessary to make these systematized recordings? Is a resource like RtF gradually replaced or made unnecessary by online video archives like Youtube? Why (not)?
  1. What role does sound play in an audiovisual archive like RtF? In the videos, what kind of sounds do you hear? Would it be useful to focus the analysis on sounds, rather than images? What kind of questions might be asked?

Modes of representation

  1. What are the advantages of combining text and image in scholarly analysis? Should there be a hierarchy, or not? How can text engage with image and the other way around? Does it require a particular “writing” style? Does it require particular tools?

Additional information about Recording the Future, sources of inspiration and possible comparisons

For more information about Recording the Future and its various products, see the project website, and this essay by project coordinators Henk Schulte Nordholt and Fridus Steijlen. For more clips from the archive, see the RtF Youtube channel.

Important sources of inspiration for RtF, also useful for discussion in class, are Mass Observation (1937-present, currently housed by the University of Sussex) and Michael Apted’s UP Series (see, among others, this useful debate in Ethnography), with the main difference that RtF follows places rather than people. Recording the Future can also be contextualized in a more recent trend of sensory ethnography projects; See a brief discussion here.

Additional products and related questions

The film “Don’t forget to remember me” (Fridus Steijlen and Henk Schulte Nordholt, 2008) features “a day in the life of Indonesia.”

Questions:

  1. According to one reviewer, the choice on the part of the directors to minimize (textual) context and let the images speak for themselves is both a strength and “a major weakness”? What is your opinion?
  2. This film has been used on multiple occasions for educational purposes, evoking radically different responses. Some viewers appreciated it for its insights and critical approach. Others judged it as “neocolonial.” How can we explain these divergent assessments? What elements in the film might account for these respective judgments?
  3. How does this film compare to Ridley’s Scott/Youtube’s “Life in a Day”?

The documentary “Being prominent in Indonesia,” (Ahmad Baihaki and Fridus Steijlen, 2011) is a portrait of Ibu Mooryati Soedibyo, an influential Indonesian business woman and politician. As, generally speaking, RtF is biased toward the lives of less affluent people, this film shows another, less prominent side of the archive.

Questions:

  1. The article “Living in a Makeshift World” looks at the vocabulary of makeshift, as embedded in senses of transience, improvisation and future dreams and aspiration. How does Ibu Mooryati’s choice of words compare to this? Does it communicate a different kind of temporality?
  2. What kind of spaces does Ibu Mooryati inhabit or use? How are these spaces connected and/or separated from the public spaced inhabited by less affluent people? What information does RtF provide with regard to the (possible) physical interactions between different social classes in contemporary Indonesia?

The short film “A day in the life of a mall,” (Andy Fuller, 2011) makes use of (embedded) written citations in order to make an argument. What do you think of this method? Is this a good way to construct a (scholarly argument on the basis of these images? Why (not)?

Kate Hennessy

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July 27, 2016

VAR SUPPLEMENTS: Monique Scott on reframing anthropology exhibitions for contemporary audiences

July 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

Monique Scott from Visual Anthropology Review on Vimeo.

Monique Scott’s video interview about her review, “White Walls, ‘Black City’: Reflections on “Exhibition as Residency—Art, Anthropology, Collaboration” (VAR 30-2, Fall 2014), which discusses efforts to resuscitate the image of the anthropology exhibitions for contemporary audiences. Her review specifically considers the exhibition organized by Ethnographic Terminalia at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park, South Chicago, in 2013.

Kate Hennessy

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July 27, 2016

VAR SUPPLEMENTS: Jennifer Hubbert on the Iconicity and reappropriation of Tank Man

July 27, 2016 | By | No Comments

Jennifer Hubbert from Visual Anthropology Review on Vimeo.

Jennifer Hubbert’s video interview about her article “Appropriating Iconicity: Why Tank Man Still Matters” (VAR 30-2, Fall 2014), which explores the reappropriation of iconic photographs, examining what happens when the iconic “Tank Man” image is modified and repurposed to new political ends.

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