recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : sanssoleil   4

Teju Cole: ‘My camera is like an invisibility cloak. It makes me more free’ | Books | The Guardian
"The final piece in Cole’s 2016 essay collection, Known and Strange Things, is a description of that traumatic occurrence. It is called Blind Spot. Next month, his first book of photographs is published. It is also called Blind Spot. Why, I ask him, did he reprise that title for a book that is, in essence, about a sustained way of seeing? “Well, there is some dark humour in the title that people who have read the essay will hopefully pick up on,” he says, “but, as I write in the afterword, there is also the fact that the act of looking is limited. We only see a small part of what we are looking at, so there is a constant blind spot even with the kind of attentive looking that photography entails. There are many resonances in that title – how difficult it is to see clearly, how difficult it is to tell a dream, how difficult it is to make pictures that are new in some way.”

How well Cole succeeds in all of this is difficult to say, not because his images aren’t strong – they are in a detached and rigorously formal-to-the-point-of-deadpan way that was pioneered by the likes of Stephen Shore in the 1970s – but because Blind Spot is not simply a book of photographs. Instead, each image is accompanied by a corresponding passage of prose. The book unfolds – and succeeds – as a deftly choreographed dance of words and pictures, with Cole’s characteristically allusive style of writing here condensed to what he calls “fragments”. Sometimes, but not often, the words refer directly to what is in the picture, but more often the photographs are conceptual starting points for musings on his now-familiar obsessions: memory, myth, culture, politics, race and dreams.

The associations, though, are often not entirely clear. A photograph of a telegraph pole on a deserted street in Selma, Alabama prompts a memory of a dream Cole had about crossing a street but never arriving at the other side, which, in turn, calls up a quotation on consciousness and time by the French phenomenological philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. A street portrait of the back of a blond woman in New York City (see below), redolent of the work of Joel Meyerowitz, is matched with a fragment from Greek mythology concerning the painter Timanthes’s mysterious portrait of the grieving, veiled Agamemnon. This is, for want of a better phrase, quintessentially Cole-ian.

“I see it as a unified story,” he explains, “but one in which each fragment of prose is dense in the way that a poem is dense. There are thematic breadcrumbs scattered throughout the text, but, yes, it is oblique. It’s not meant to be obvious, but a more psychologically resonant series of fragments that detonate on some deeper level.”"



"Taken alongside his fiction and his essays, which range from the reflective to the polemical, as well as the photography column he writes for the New York Times, Blind Spot further enhances Cole’s already burnished reputation. He is a writer for our times, prodigious, wide-ranging and supremely confident in his reach. In Known and Strange Things, to give just a few examples, he discourses passionately on race in America, explores the poetics of Saul Leiter’s pioneering colour photographs and, in two consecutive essays, lauds VS Naipaul, the elegant writer, and nails VS Naipaul, the dreadful old reactionary.

If there is a personal touchstone for this kind of cross-fertilisation, it is surely the late John Berger, one of his heroes, though Berger, as I remind him, never took photographs. “I actually asked John why photography was not part of his practice,” Cole says, “In his case, to photograph a subject was to foreclose some part of what he could write about it. He saw it as an interference in his writing faculties. I don’t think like that about it. In fact, for me, taking a photograph of something often induces further thoughts on it.”

In the flesh, Cole is both charming and intense. When I met him briefly last summer at a party in Manhattan thrown in his honour by his editors at the New York Times, he was warm and inclusive, but, even in casual conversation, there is a palpable alertness about him that intrigues. He seems acutely conscious, too, of his own place in the intellectual firmament. In Known and Strange Things, he revealed that his antidote to insomnia was to “rise from my bed and watch Jacques Derrida talk”. In his deftly elegant takedown of Naipaul, there is also the distinct suggestion that a literary baton is being passed from the older master to the heir apparent.

Cole’s precocious literary talent must surely have been honed in childhood. Born in Michigan, he was taken back to Nigeria as a child by his parents when they had completed their studies. His upbringing, he says, was solidly middle-class and aspirational. His father worked in middle management and his mother was a school teacher; both instilled in him the notion that “the child had to do better in education than their peers”. When he travelled to America in the early 90s to commence his own college education, he felt he was returning home. “For sure, I had conflict and a certain nervousness, but not the kind that comes from thinking of oneself as an immigrant. I had a sense of my rights as an American. There was a period of adjustment – there still is – but the feeling I have sometimes of being lost in the world is more to do with my own personality than America.”

Cole studied art and art history at Kalamazoo College, Michigan – “a good liberal college with the kind of leafy campus you get in American campus novels” – and later tried and failed to apply himself to a degree in medicine, in part to appease his parents. That failure haunted him for a while and, he says, he suffered from a bout of depression around that time. “I had no money, no time to read or go to concerts and I felt starved of that. Plus, I was very cold in Michigan and isolated. For two years, I was struggling to do well when I was used to doing well. I do not want to dwell on it but, for a time, I was phenomenally not myself. All the things you hear about depression were there.”"



"
In Open City, his descriptions of his New York evince a keen, roving attentiveness reminiscent of the city’s great street photographers: Garry Winogrand, Meyerowitz and Leiter are presences in his prose alongside the more often cited Berger and WG Sebald. Cole, as he is keen to point out, has been taking photographs longer than he has been writing fiction. In Every Day Is for the Thief, the text is punctuated by Cole’s black-and-white photographs evoking the swaggering, chaotic thrust of Lagos, his childhood home.

In both novels, Cole’s writing style recalls Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated description of his own prose: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed.”

Cole cites the great experimental film-maker Chris Marker as perhaps the crucial influence in his novels. “In his great film, Sans Soleil, Marker moves between zooming out and watching the flow of life and zooming in to look at the pattern of the details of everyday experience. He is not telling you one thing about a place, but allowing it all to come in and making the connections visible. He is a major influence on Open City and even more on Blind Spot, where the subject itself is that kind of interconnectedness.”

In many ways, then, Blind Spot continues in the vein of Teju Cole’s fiction. This time around, though, he is the peripatetic narrator on an altogether more epic global journey through cities in which he is often a lone stranger. The experience of travel – by air as well as wandering alone on land – is central here. Since the success of Open City, Cole has travelled extensively – to literary festivals, teaching programmes, writer’s residencies and promotional events. As the novelist Siri Hustvedt puts it in her introduction: “Teju Cole really gets around.” Thus, each photograph and fragment of prose is grounded in a specific location: Auckland, Basel, Chicago, Lagos, Nairobi, New York, Paris and so forth. “In each place I have travelled,” he writes, “I have used my camera as an extension of my memory.”

The images, and the reflections that follow from them, are also a way of fixing moments that might otherwise be lost in the sheer overload of global memories he has stored in his head in a relatively short time. “Certain experiences became more vivid as I was walking around and thinking about what I was photographing,” he elaborates. “In central Bali, for instance, there was an afternoon that has survived very clearly and vividly in my memory but also in the false memory of the photographs I took that day. They are stilled moments, fragments from a much bigger experience, a film that could only have been captured with a camera attached to my head.”

Given that he takes his camera with him wherever he goes, how visible a presence is he when he shoots on the street? He laughs, anticipating the underlying thrust of my question. “Well, a solitary black tourist is not a common sight in Switzerland or Kathmandu or northern Italy or even in upstate New York,” he says, ruefully, “so, I am already a little strange. But, there is a way in which having the camera makes me more free. It is a kind of invisibility cloak, especially when you are on a strange street far from home. But, oddly enough, I was more free in Kathmandu than in Lagos. The first assumption everywhere is, ‘there is a black tourist’ – but, in Nigeria, that question becomes more complex. There is more suspicion.”"



"“One of the responses to all that is to do the work I do. My essays are not political in the main, but they are trying to advance a humanist argument. Likewise, my photographs are complex, but I hope, … [more]
tejucole  2017  johnberger  blindspot  photography  writing  howwewrite  opencity  chrismarker  fiction  experience  invisibility  sanssoleil  christopherisherwood  garrywinogand  wgsebald  depression 
june 2017 by robertogreco
How YouTube Changed The Essay | Evan Puschak | TEDxLafayetteCollege - YouTube
"Evan Puschak, creator of The Nerdwriter, traces the history of the written essay and the essay-film, showing how these two strands feed into a new form of the essay which is becoming increasingly popular on YouTube: the video essay.

Evan Puschak is the creator and producer of The Nerdwriter, a popular web series of weekly video essays about art and culture. Evan launched The Nerdwriter in 2011, a year after graduating from Boston University, where he studied film production. One of his first videos landed him a job at MSNBC as a writer and web content producer. Almost three years later, the Discovery Channel asked him to write and host a show on their digital network called Seeker Daily. After launching a successful show for Discovery, he left to pursue The Nerdwriter full time. Evan has never been fond of offices or working for other people. He hates meetings and quarterly earnings reports. Now that he’s working for himself, pursuing his passion on YouTube, Evan has never been happier."
via:lukeneff  writing  essays  evanpuschak  nerdwriter  videoessays  2016  hansrichter  fforfake  orsonwelles  documentary  commentary  sanssoleil  1973  1983  1940  chrismarker  everyframeapainting  tonyzhou  education  knowledge  explainers  mikerugnetta  vox  internet  web  online  audiovisual  learning  thinking  micheldemontaigne  montaigne 
june 2016 by robertogreco
markertext.com : Chris Marker - image = text
[transcripts from the films]

""Cat, wherever you are, peace be with you."

Chris Marker:

à Valparaiso
Coréenes
Description of a Struggle
La Jetée
Letter from Siberia

Sans Soleil - French text
Sans Soleil / Sunless - English text
Sans Soleil / サン・ソレイユ - Japanese text (PDF)
Sans Soleil / 태양 없이 - Korean text
Sans Soleil / Без Солнца - Russian text

A few links

Comment or contribute text: sandor (at) markertext.com"

[Came via/for this one: http://www.markertext.com/sans_soleil.htm ]
chrismarker  lajetée  sanssoleil  transcripts  documentary  coréenes  àvalparaiso  film 
march 2015 by robertogreco
GODARD MONTAGE: Chris Marker's Camera-Stylo / "Notes On Filmmaking"
"To return to Astruc, tonight's film Sans Soleil is an example of "La Camera-Stylo" par excellence. An entire book could be dedicated to Marker's editing in the film, so I will not focus on it in particular at the moment; suffice to say the montage would not have been as effective if the footage itself was not shot with such patient and active framing and movement, by a true camera-writer. I am also choosing not to mention the text, which is of course essential to the film – my focus is solely on the creative independence offered by the small camera, which Astruc so presciently predicted.

The majority of the footage was shot by Marker himself, using a silent 16mm Beaulieu film camera to capture his own compendium of "things that quicken the heart." Although notes on the production are scare if existent at all due to Marker's public reclusiveness, we can assume a number of basic qualities that tie back to Astruc's ideas. Marker's footage seems to have been shot as the events and subjects were discovered and unfolding, and the lightweight Beaulieu provided the discreet ability to write with motion anywhere at any time during Marker's travels. Here we can note the uncanny clarity and purpose with which Marker investigates and focuses on his subjects. Early in the film at the cat cemetery in Tokyo, we have reason to suspect the man behind the camera is not an amateur but truly an auteur cameraman, as Marker moves to reframe the woman praying to the cat shrine.

[image]

Some of my other favorite stills from the film – needless to say a pretty difficult task to choose. Note the care in framing and composition:

[images]

Serving as the film's editor as well as the fictional narrator and fictional cameraman Sandor Krashna (Krashna's friend Hayao Yamaneko is also Marker, the name translating to "Mountain Cat" or "Wild Cat," cats being of course a favorite animal [of the filmmaker]) Marker creates a work that the term "essay film" only begins to describe. Indeed, this type of filmmaking seems a direct extension of Astruc's idea of the roles of screenwriter and director losing their distinction as new technology permits the evasion of the industrial mode of filmmaking that had so far codified into the classical Hollywood system and its worldwide exponents.

Marker's process is not unlike writing a novel or essay, wherein the author is alone with his stylus, writing an excess of ideas and musings which will ultimately be edited into its final form. Except with Marker, the writer is out engaging with the events of the world. Watching the film I feel as I am discovering cinema's potential for the first time – Sans Soleil gives lie to the notion that a fledgling filmmaker must be follow some arbitrary industrial production procedure in order to produce a work that is personal, affective, complex and sincere. As Abbas Kiarostami notes on his masterclass 10 on Ten, in regards to the small DV camera he used on Ten, small cameras "allow the artist to work alone again." Here the distinction between documentary and fiction loses its relevance in the same way it did for Godard in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her. As Sam mentioned following the screening, it's simply because Marker and Godard choose to simply make a film and do not worry about the categories and genres which are ascribed after the fact.

Below is an excerpt from Marker's text I transcribed from the Criterion box set for Sans Soleil/La Jetee. I cannot help but take Marker's point that technology today could allow for anyone to create something extremely personal and exploratory, free from the restraints of capital. Although his reference to Vertov is certainly appropriate, Astruc could have been evoked just as easily. The real question is: with the advent of incredibly cheap HD video cameras (this generation's Beaulieu), why aren't there more films produced in kindred spirit with Sans Soleil? Why are there virtually no other camera-writers and most importantly:

"Will there be a last letter?"

- Ian

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Notes On Filmmaking
by Chris Marker

Working on a shoestring, which in my case is more often a matter of circumstance than of choice, never appeared to me as a cornerstone for aesthetics, and Dogme-type stuff just bores me. So it's rather in order to bring some comfort to young filmmakers in need that I mention these few technical details: The material for La Jetee was created with a Pentax 24x36, and the only "cinema" part (the blinking of the eyes) with an Arriflex 35mm film camera, borrowed for one hour. Sans Soleil was entirely shot with a 16mm Beaulieu silent film camera (not one sync take within the whole film), with 100-foot reels – 2'44" autonomy! –and a small cassette recorder (not even a Walkman; they didn't exist yet). The only "sophisticated" device – given the time – was the spectre image synthesizer, also borrowed for a few days. This is to say that the basic tools for these two films were literally available to anyone. No silly boasting here, just the conviction that today, with the advent of computer and small DV cameras (unintentional homage to Dziga Vertov), would-be directors need no longer submit their fate to the unpredictability of producers or the arthritis of televisions, and that by following their whims or passions, they perhaps see on day their tinkering elevated to DVD status by honorable men."
chrismarker  budget  constraints  filmmaking  lajetée  sanssoleil  audio  film  tools  howwework  cinematography  cameras  editing  framing  composition  dzigavertov  technology 
march 2015 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read