Muhlenberg College Fall 2019


Final thoughts

This class has been extremely insightful into the making of documentary work. We learned how to make ethical films that we can be proud of and not exploit anyone in the process. We learned about our Locations and how we can use our location to make our audiences feel something and create a much more meaningful experience for everyone involved. Through these blogs you can see my understanding grow and what I thought were the most important take aways from each chapter we read and each film we watched. You can see my documentaries and while they are not pieces of art, they are my firs attempt at documentary work and that is important. Besides telling stories of stickers, social media and learning management systems. You see my struggle to find where I belonged and expressing myself. You see the downside of technology in the classroom and specifically how it stinted my growth and education this semester. While neither film is exclusively about me it is important o realize these topics are close to me and how I feel. That my Location matters and that is my biggest take away from this semester. Location matters and the only way to be informed, critical, ethical and responsible is to understand that and use it to create beautiful films.


Williams location is critical in watching his film. His goal of the film to find solutions for reconciliation. Much of his film focuses on what happened to the land the African American people, who were banished, left behind and the white washing of history in these cities. Williams documents the Strickland family’s journey to find out what happened to their families land. They were told the land was sold, but in reality their ancestor fled for their lives and their land was illegally sold. Williams wanted reconciliation between the two, only asking if the city thought what happened was morally wrong. In Pierce City, The Brown brothers wanted to mark their grandfather’s grave. This did not go down well and they decide to move their grandfather and rebury him elsewhere. Because the grave was unmarked, the city did not want to let them touch it. Williams shows that the brothers ask that Pierce City to pay for the removal and reburial, as reparation for why they had to move the grave. William does an amazing job of portraying these families and these places as equals. He recognizes that reconciliation will only happen when the history is out in the open for everyone to see and they can all learn and grow from it.

Dorothea Lange “A Moral Pilgrim”

Dorothea Lange, Toward Los Angeles, California, Two men walking next to billboard for the train, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

Dorethea Lange’s work is extremely interesting. When I look at the photo above I see two men walking toward opportunity. This photo is of curse part of Lange’s work to highlight poverty in America. These men are probably carrying everything they own and are walking away from the poverty they live in. Lange could have easily pointed the camera in the other direction showing them walking away, but instead positioned them walking toward something. Lange understands that these people are more than the conditions they live in. She understands this because she feels a friction in the way she lives, being a photographer and a mother. She would not want to be pictured as just a mother or just a photographer, she does not want to picture these people as just poor. So Lange decides to depicted their poverty as two men walking next to a billboard for the train, which they can’t afford.

Stranger With a Camera – Elizabeth Barret

Barret has two distinct locations during the film. In the perspective as a film maker she is documenting a place that is hers. She grew up there, she has personal opinions on things that happened there. While telling the story of Jeremiah she describes it as her home. She talks about how she was offended by the video and pictures that were displayed of her community. She also says that, when she is at Appalshop, she finally sees her community as she saw it through someone else eyes. While she did grow up there, from the perspective of resident she was disconnected from the community. She grew up well off, and often did not interact with the community. She did not interact with them until she joins a vista group and vista is an outsider group coming into the community. She also says when she was in high school, they heard about Hugh O’Connor’s death, but it did not really mean anything to her. She didn’t connect with the murder until she met someone from O’Connor’s film crew who was there that she really felt the effects of it. Barret in the beginning of the film asks questions about documentary work: who gets to tell the story?, and what is the storytellers responsibility? In the end she says it is not enough to just write the story, but you must show the story in the truest light available, understanding both sides and letting the audience come to their own conclusions, and hope that you did your job well enough that you did the people in the story justice. She straddled the line between being the “stranger with a camera” like O’Connors, and also being the subject and part of the community like Hobart Ison.

Doing Documentary Work: Chapter One

unknown, poster, poster from the 1940s,Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

“In this century of the unconscious, that is, the every notion of detachment contends with our commonly held conviction that all the time the mind unwillingly responds to the world in ways that can make a difference in what we feel, and how we give expression to our ideas.” (Coles, 32-33)

Coles, Robert. Doing Documentary Work. Oxford Univ. Press, 1998.

The idea that someone can be completely impartial when doing field research is false. We as human beings take in information and process it. No matter what everyone will have their own opinion and bias on the topic because that is how the human mind works. If this is how we as human being learn and take in information, why are we trying to detach ourselves from it. If filmmakers detach from their work , they will not get through to their audiences. They can not teach people about a real problem facing people and how to fix and grow from it if they do not make their audiences feel something. Documentary work should not be neutral, it should convey and important message about an issue facing people and make the audience feel something so they stand up and help.