A Medium Seen Otherwise : Photography in Documentary Film

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    • Abstract:
      Through a new look at how political, historical, and art documentaries engage with photographic images, objects, and archives, A Medium Seen Otherwise argues that film allows us to better understand what people do with analog and digital photographs as material objects that enable social and political relations through multisensory experience. Moreover, as a time-based medium with sound, film can bring the event of photography into fuller view, demonstrating how no single participant in it (photographer, subject, camera, photograph, or viewer) has sovereignty over its affect, meaning, or value. The book thus explores the ways in which the innovative incorporation of photography into documentary film permits us to see both of these media otherwise. Photographs, whether professional or vernacular, are conventionally understood to furnish documentaries with indexical evidence and visual illustration of history, yet the spatio-temporal and aural dimensions of film permit documentaries to illuminate photography's wider capacities beyond the merely representational. Combining new critical perspectives on well-known documentary filmmakers and photographers (Agnès Varda, Rithy Panh, Edward Burtynsky, Malick Sidibé, Vivian Maier, JR, Ken Burns, Errol Morris, and Akram Zaatari) with analyses of lesser known, but important, documentaries, author Roger Hallas investigates a global range of documentary and vernacular photographic contexts, including Lebanon, Palestine, Mali, Congo, Cambodia, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Canada, and the US. While authorship and representation remain common rhetorical frameworks for documentaries about photography, A Medium Seen Otherwise offers a compelling account of how the intermediality between documentary film and photography can posit far more expansive conceptions of both media. A companion website shows clips of films discussed in the book.
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