Archived entries for documentary

Martha Rosler: The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-75)

The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems 01

The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems 02

The Missing Picture

Director Rithy Panh recreates his own memories of this turbulent period in his country’s history through the unusual medium of elaborate diorama-style tableaux of scenes from his childhood (he was 13 when the Khmer Rouge seized power), populated with hundreds of small figurines of men, women, children, babies and animals, handmade from clay and then handpainted. He then films these static scenes, often featuring representations of himself and his family members, cutting from close ups to wides, even tracking or panning, while in voiceover the narration contextualizes what we’re seeing and ruminates on its meaning. Elsewhere he employs black-and-white documentary footage, some of it incredibly upsetting, to tell fragments of the wider story while cutting back to live-action close-ups of the little clay dolls being sculpted. And he also occasionally crudely superimposes archive clips from the glamorized, escapist pre-coup Cambodian films he watched being made as a kid and which come to represent the carefree, brightly colored childhood that came to such an abrupt end in 1975. It’s a fascinating example of storytelling and documentary techniques being used in concert and occasionally in collision to produce something that, whether it completely works on all its levels or not, is totally unique and devastatingly personal.”

“Review: Documentary 'The Missing Picture' Is Shocking, Poignant And Soulful” by Jessica Kiang


New York’s Photo League

The Photo League was a New York City–based organization of professional and amateur photographers. A splinter group of the Film and Photo League, it was founded in 1936 by photographers Sid Grossman (1913–1955) and Sol Libsohn (1914–2001). Many of its members were young, first-generation, working-class Jewish Americans.

In keeping with its educational, activist, and aesthetic goals, the League offered lectures, darkroom access, and classes on history and technique, as well as exhibition opportunities. It promoted photography as a fine art and also championed the use of documentary photography to expose social problems and instigate social change.

During its fifteen-year existence, the League was among only a handful of places in New York that offered study in documentary photography, and it was unique in offering inexpensive classes and darkroom access.

The majority of the Photo League images were taken in New York City, but members also took photographs across the United States—for instance, in rural communities in the south—and, during World War II, in Europe, Asia, and Central America. Most of the photographs document ordinary people and everyday life and celebrate democracy in all its diversity. The photographs also include images of poverty and other hardships, which is not surprising given the social conscience of most of the members.

The League published a newsletter called Photo Notes, through which its members’ images, educational philosophies, and ideological stances and debates could be further disseminated.

via The Jewish Museum New York | Overview.

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