Saturday, 14 February 2015


Dear Diane,

I was going to apologise for picking this week's film but I guess the plan is to watch them all at some stage so I guess I am off the hook for inflicting boredom on you. Or, maybe you loved it and watched it three times in succession. (But seeing as we are so much alike, I am guessing not!)

For readers benefit this week I picked the 1991 Australian film Proof with Russell Crowe
It is a tale of a blind man who takes photographs because he seems them as proof that what people are telling him about his surroundings is actually true. Of course it turns out that only works if, firstly the describer tells the truth and secondly that the blind man believes what the describer is saying when they do tell the truth. As a film is was described as a black comedy and I can recall one particularly comedic moment but generally, I thought dark and slow. Just slow and strangely stiff characters. Faces that showed no moment and so no emotion.

The concept of photography as truth is kind of interesting to me though. I think you will recall that my Dad was a Police photographer so the use of photos as evidence was instilled me as a child although I never actually got to see the dead body photos! ( If asked what kind of photography he did he likes to say, "Oh, still life. Very still life.) Now I am sometimes given photos as 'proof' in my day job. Look how happy this child was with me! Of course all that shows is that the child was happy looking at the moment the shutter closed. Or at least acting happy. Who knows how they felt at other times. Who knows what was out of the frame promoting the smile. Plus, I am thinking that with your knowledge of Aspergers you may even say that a photos of a happy child is only a photos of a happy child if one can read the body language that in our culture generally signifies happy.

I think that, photography might not be untruthful whilst at the same time never telling the whole truth. In part that's because it only shows one decisive moment in the confines of a single frame. More so, its shows how one person responded to a much bigger scene or event, and each person in that place will see different things and respond differently. They will bring to the episode different experiences and opinions through which they filter the experience. In the film when Russell Crowe's character was asked to describe people I noticed that he would mention their eye colour and it struck me that that would be meaningless to a person blind from birth yet one of the first facts a sighted person would include.

I have been reading a lot of writing by David duChemin recently, having bought a job lot of his e-books and videos and physical ones for Christmas and I like how he says that a photo should not show what you saw but how you felt about what you saw. I think the photos in this film were less about what the blind man could not see as how he felt about trusting the people who were present and giving him information. the very taking of the photos said: I do not trust, I am afraid I am being lied to, cheated, hindered. They were very negative (no pun intended ) photos in term of their motivation.

If we go back to Ansel Adams I think his photographs do probably show ( by his choice of angles and lighting) what he felt about Yosemite. But is that because we knew what he felt because he told people and so we can match up the verbal information with the visual information and say, yes they are congruent. I see what he says he felt. Isn't it much harder with the Vivien Maier photos we saw? With her we have no information to be sure what she felt when she was taking them. I assumed at the time, curiosity. But it could have been disgust at the society around her. It could have been jealous or longing to have a connection with the people she photographed. It could have been anything and without the words we cannot be sure.

Of course, even with the words we can only be sure if we trust the photographer's account.

My, this post has got rather philosophical! I think I ought to have a cup of tea and recover!
I wonder what film you will pick for us next week?

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