After a semester spent studying the work of documentarians like Robert Coles, Elizabeth Barret, and Marco Williams, my understanding of documentaries and what it takes to produce them has improved drastically. Looking back at my first post, which was a reflection on chapter 1 of Robert Coles’ book, Doing Documentary Work, I found that one of my earliest points of interest was something that remained a common theme in almost all of my work this semester, as it was something I returned to frequently in my written assignments, and something that I feel I have a much more thorough understanding of now. That concept was the idea of the inevitable separation any documentarian has from the people they are documenting, and how that separation affects their ability to truthfully and accurately depict those people. My stance regarding this concept still hasn’t changed–I still think that documentarians should do whatever they can to minimize the distance between them and the people who, in the words of Bob Moses, make up the picture the documentarian is painting. This idea even influenced my decision to focus my final documentary (shown above) on the theatre department here at Muhlenberg. Since it is a community that I am already a part of, I felt much more confident in my ability to minimize the distance between myself, my subject, and the people I was interviewing, which I preferred over tackling a subject I had little knowledge of, which would have made me feel like a complete stranger painting an incomplete portrait of a part of campus I had nothing to do with.
If I had to choose one big takeaway from my time in this class, it would be this same idea. The vast effect separation can have on the accuracy and believability can have on a documentary, and how crucial it is that documentarians minimize that distance and portray the people or subjects they are documenting ethically. Although I still have much to learn about the process of doing documentary work, Documentary Research has provided me with a solid foundation that I feel confident building from in future classes, and that I hope to continue developing throughout my time at Muhlenberg.
I enjoyed and learned a lot taking Documentary Research this fall semester. Looking into the work of Robert Coles, Bill Nichols, and Dorothea Lange has allowed to me understand the components and ethics that go along with Documentary work. I enjoyed reading Robert Coles book the most because I found it the most useful and easy to connect to my essay topics. I liked how this class gave us the opportunity to create our personal blogs. I have become apart of media other then just having social media. I also enjoyed how our two main essays that we worked on throughout the semester helped us write our final essay for the class. In addition, having the other projects such as the 30-second documentary and our final 2-3 minute documentary was beneficial because we implemented the work we have been reading out through the the semester. Overall, Documentary Research has opened me up to new opportunities and has advanced the background information about the history of documentaries and the overall components of what goes into documentaries, especially the ethics behind it. One thing I will take away from this course is the importance of one’s location in their own work experiences. The idea of location that we focused on can be applied to not only the work of media-makers but also people in their day to day actives as they want to complete their own goals.
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.
In Documentary Research we learned of the importance and inevitably of straddling the objective and subjective in the documentarians perspective. We were challenged to look deeper into ourselves to understand the objective world. Pioneers of this philosophy were studied to help us understand what it means to document morally and ethically. This domain is my expression and understanding of the works of Coles, Lange, Barrett, Williams, and myself. These are my choices and ideas synthesized with these artist’s work. Post Documentary Research, I’ll keep in the back of my mind the ideas of representation and exploitation. Who is benefiting from the interview/documentary/etc.? What are we really saying? Having a deeper understanding of the concept of ethical representation is something that will stick with me.
Taking my final strides in this documentary research class, I have learned the ethical, creative, and moral boundaries and motives of documentary work. In applying my knowledge of this subject, in my own work, I established my position, my location, as a creator. Documenting and researching about WMUH, I got to learn more about the radio station at Muhlenberg college. As a DJ at this school, I found this investigation and creative project to be fulfilling and exciting, as I got to learn more about the place I call home.
I joined the radio station during the first semester of my freshman year, and my passion for the station has become stronger and stronger since then. I wanted to document the history of the station to learn more about its technological past. It was imperative that I read and thoroughly analyzed the valuable works of Coles, Barrett, and Marco Williams, among others, for me to understand the importance of location in one’s work.
One of the most important things I learned in this class was the importance of one’s location, and that the concept of objectivity in documentary work is not necessarily possible or imperative to quality documentary work. With the knowledge and skillset I developed in this subject, I felt better equipped to properly document my content.
I really enjoyed this course immensely and having this space, my own domain, to keep my literary and documentary work accessible to myself and the public that chooses to stumble upon the “Real in the Reel.”