Filmtaking

In discussions with the Chief Investigator and Supervisor, Professor Katina Michael and listening in conversation with researcher and Filmmaker Dr. Magali McDuffie, the researcher struck upon where distinctions can be made between those engaged in the trust based relationship of filmmaking where the subject is aware of (and interacts with) the filmmaker in the role as an actor, versus that of the distrustful relationship with those who have ‘become-the-camera’ and are ‘film taking’.

Photo: Alexander Hayes

Photo: Alexander Hayes


Filmtaking, (opposite to filmmaking) that is ‘film’ or digital video that is ‘taking’ in a distrustful manner (not a trust based relationship) is taking away information purporting to be for the subjects best interests and even claiming that it protects the citizen rights, personal security and well being of the camera bearer, lifelogger, officer. The human (for the subject) is no longer visible and all that others then question (user known as bearer) in its absence is where then is the camera? In many cases, where it the camera oscillates from overt to covert in effect it then disappears into the human…and those around them dismiss that bearer (human wearer become camera) as simply another node in a surveillance society. The same claims that surveillance positions itself in society, a presence that engenders trust is in fact an orchestration that perpetuates distrust, with many accounts through my PhD research providing evidence of this phenomena. Likewise sousveillance which is nothing more than the inverse (yet not opposite) and despite all the claims of its power differential contribution is just another camera in the grid, a half-cocked blunderbuss staring down the barrel of a failed recalcitrance…wearing it essentially means you become it in a Heideggerian enframement.


The researcher in an effort to describe the transition as a researcher to that of the ‘filmtaker’ in the following three key positions; (1) that of the OBSERVER; (2) transitioning to that of PARTICIPANT OBSERVER; (3) and finally that of the PARTICIPANT ACTUATOR.


'“… As an OBSERVER from afar, I sat and looked in wonderment at humans who seemed to be doing something rather interesting with cameras and to achieve their goals they were strapping them onto themselves. I was looking at them from a distance and not understanding what they were doing I took a step closer. In some instances I kept my distance and whilst I attended forums and workshops or conferences or events I did not participate in the observable use of nor active engagement with the technology. Geoff Lubich was the first in 2004 and then I followed many others.”


“…As a PARTICIPANT OBSERVER I went about engaging with people who were experimenting with these body worn camera devices and secretly (privately and unknown to the others) I began testing the concept of wearing the camera to understand it in entirety. With some degree of creativity upon using it to create learning resources I was then considered to be an informant of the phenomena, an expert in knowledge of the field, a BWC contemporary across my own cohort. I was observed actively engaging with others during events and interacting directly with the technology, creating digital resources with the technology in a detached but tool oriented manner where the camera and its computations remained separate to my identity. I was disconnected with those who had already become the camera and lived their life by it, such as Cathal Gurrin, Steve Mann, Gordon Bell and countless others. I hadn’t yet become the camera although I had been avidly using handheld smartphones like a weapon for long enough, yet still able to put it down and retreat if I wished.”


 “…Then one day I received a camera that I could wear. In fact not just wear but attach to my body and forget about and it automagically transformed me into one more of itself, the framework on which it could be carried and operated no longer of any importance to its own mission. In effect the camera transformed me into a PARTICIPANT ACTUATOR, chilling my personal relationships considerably and cannibalised my thinking around data, value and community. The camera and its computations had become a large facet of my identity, now a total photoborg (as my daughter called me) and as others were referring to me as a cyborg. I had ceased to inform others of its workings and as I have described in many differing journal entries I noted a substantial shift in the way others related to me, engaged with me or 'acted' around me. I even refused to take it off and wilfully disregarded the objections by those who indicated they did not wish to be in my relational and objective field of view, not even subjects any more…just a sea of faces to feed the national security and corporation whereabouts machine with.”


So, as a participant actuator in a self confessed failed experiment from which I decided to retract (I have enough references there to defend it as a 'new' conceptual and perceptual finding) I’m considering breaking down the background chapter and renaming it OBSERVATIONS split down into two phases; (1) immersion in which I describe all the roles and events and then; (2) reflection through the 'eyes' of the journal and through the multitudes of eyes of the borg camera which is secondary evidence… hundreds of hours of film and hundreds of thousands of photos I took throughout that period.

Then, to finish the chapter up as Professor Teemu Leinonen and Leigh Blackall have likened it to an ‘expose of the disingenuity of an interview society’ I can examine all the differing points of reflection I now have to inform what I discovered in digital land versus my naive and often recalcitrant REFUSAL to conform to the cameras wishes...the many times I BROKE as a result of becoming that photoborg….actually being vulnerable about what failed heaven (for all of you who believe in one) forbid!!!

The authentic....and juxtapose the lot with Jean Rouch perhaps even signaling that surveillance and BWC is the death of filmmaking, positioning it rather as becoming FILM-TAKING.


(Excerpt from Magali McDuffie’s PhD thesis) - Rouch viewed film as a therapeutic device, in which people would become aware of, and then “accommodate, the psychological disjunctions caused by colonialism” (Eaton,1979, p. 6). In this sense the camera takes on a performative role, and becomes active rather than passive, an indispensable witness to lived experiences, and a catalyst for taking action – enabling people to give their own evidence of history (Hearne, 2006), and to create their own archive (Bonitzer & Toubiana, 2000).

Rouch conceived of the camera as an “accelerator”, allowing people to reveal themselves more rapidly than they would have otherwise, provided that trust be the essential founding elements of their relationship with the filmmaker. In this process the filmmaker was not only accepted by the participants, but also integrated in the action (Eaton, 1979). - Eaton, M. (Ed.). (1979). Anthropology-cinema-reality: The films of Jean Rouch. London: British Film Institute