Ethnography Talks

by stronged


McDougall spent the majority of his talk discussing the three modes of camera usage in a documentary setting: 1) Responsive (observational, does not interfere with event), 2) Interactive (filmmaker interacts with the subject; questions), and 3) Constructive (Breaks down subject into fragments in order to reconstruct in the editing process, ie. montage). These modes effect the form and relationship between camera(filmmaker) and subject, whilst also dictating the approach to capturing the subjects in their environment.

McDougall finished his talk discussing his current project, exploring the depiction of sensory stimulus in the medium of film. He showed several clips capturing environments that evoke touch, smell, heat, etc. Similar to Anthroposophy, where Steiner believed all humans have twelve senses, McDougall believes in a sensory module beyond the five senses in popular conscious. I found the clips he presented intriguing. I would love to capture such clips myself.

Sarah Pink’s talk was much more structured, outlining what exactly is ethnography:

  • A reflexive methodology for learning about other people’s lives, an approach that acknowledges the role of the researcher/filmmaker in producing knowledge, that writes or films him/her into the story.
  •  A way of seeking to understand and find out about the unexpected, the unanticipated and the unspoken.
  • An approach that involves finding out with people, rather than about people. It’s collaborative, participatory and respectful.
  • It involves creating empathetic understandings, using our own corporeal and emotional experiences.
  • An ultimately ethical approach to being active in and representing other people’s lives, experiences, and what matters.

Ethnographic filmmaking, Pink says, is minimising the gap between scholarly research and filmmaking. Where film can represent theoretical work as much as it represents an artistic expression.

She mentioned a good idea for documentary filmmaking is to capture the responses of the subjects when exhibiting the footage you have taken of them. This idea appeals to me as it blurs the boundaries between subject and filmmaker and audience. It is almost as if the fourth wall has fallen down and the subject is now on the same level as the filmmaker, and indeed the audience. Similar to participatory documentary, yet not a full democratifying switch of control.

Next DRI talk is on the 15th of May: