cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

PHOTOGRAPHER David Goldbatt 1930-2018

‘Colour was too sweet for apartheid’: the austere genius of David Goldblatt

~ The South African photographer, who died this week, caught apartheid’s grotesqueness without ever letting anger take over. His portrait of a place and a time is without equal in modern photography

South African photographer David Goldblatt dies aged 87

~ Documenting the racial divide during apartheid, he was credited with bringing a strong moral and ethical dimension to his work

David Goldblatt, the photographer who was South Africa’s conscience – in pictures

The big picture: Shop assistant, Orlando West, Soweto, 1972

~ David Goldblatt captures a defiant private moment in apartheid-era South Africa

June 28, 2018 Posted by | photographer, photography | , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHER Ara Guler ~ The Eye of Istanbul

A man looks at an approaching horse cart in Istanbul’s Sehzadebasi neighbourhood

I had intended to post more on individual photographers – either who I knew about already or who were new to me – as much as on films and film subjects. Ara Guler comes into the second category.

Now is the time to catch up a bit.

This article in Middle East Eye profiles the man and includes a couple examples of his work in the text, a trailer for a documentary,  The Eye of Istanbul: The Life and Photographs of Ara Guler, and a further selection of his work in a slide show.

January 21, 2016 Posted by | Ara Guler, photographer, photography | , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY Enhanced Reality: Exploring the Boundaries of Photo Editing

Netherlands World Press Photo Contest

Enhanced Reality: Exploring the Boundaries of Photo Editing

Matthias Krug and Stefan Niggemeier, Spielgel Online, 8 May 2013

Even top news photographers have their work digitally enhanced these days. Mounting competition in the market for news images is forcing photo-journalists to make their output as dramatic as possible. But where are the limits of cosmetic improvement?

Any one twiddling with Picasa realises that a photo often seems more lively if tweaked with HDR-ish – a recent new feature.

The Gaza photograph looks very much as if it has been HDR-ished. Or something similar.

In a sense using HDR-ish turns a photo into a painting. And this to me is the feel of the Gaza photo. There is a line between creating this art effect and moving back into photograph. Slide the fade control – it’s obvious there is a perfect point to get what is pretty much in this photo. Too little fade it’s art, too much and you’re back into photo.

Sure, other things may have been done to it to get this effect, but that’s pretty much it without even touching Photoshop.

May 22, 2013 Posted by | digital photography, photography | , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHERS Robert Capa, Gerda Taro and Chim

Robert Capa and Gerda Taro: love in a time of war

–Capa and Taro lived, loved and died on the frontline, becoming the most famous war photographers of their time. As a new novel about them is published, we explore their real relationship

Sean O’Hagan, The Observer, Sunday 13 May 2012

Other :

Lost Luggage [The Mexican Suitcase] – Adam Marelli

Leading Photographers: Gerda Taro – Amber King

Portrait of Gerda Taro

Gerda Taro in Weimar blog

Gerda Taro in blog En El Camino [On the Road]

Lost photographs brought to light by Olivier Laurent in British Journal of Photography

The Mexican Suitcase = a film by Trisha Ziff [promotion] [see details in story tab]

The Mexican Suitcase – International centre of Photography [ Gallery of photographs by Capa, Taro and Chim]

May 16, 2012 Posted by | David Seymour [Chim], Gerda Taro, photography, Robert Capa | , , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY Facing the Camera by Alberto Manguel

Blog post:

Facing the Camera

by Alberto Manguel

–How much does a photograph really capture the essence of a person?

May 9, 2012 Posted by | photography | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY Extract from Photography and Political Violence by Susie Linfield

Extract from:

The Cruel Radiance – Photography and Political Violence


Susie Linfield

May 9, 2012 Posted by | photography | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY ESSAY ERROL MORRIS On Roger Fenton’s 2 Crimean War photographs titled ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’ taken 0n 23 April 1855


Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Part One)

Errol Morris, NYT, 25 September 2007.

Starts with Susan Sontag on Fenton. Canvasses expert opinion. Gets down to the question of ordering the photographs without considering Fenton’s ‘intentions or beliefs’. Morris mentions there is an archive of Roger Fenton’s letters from the Crimea

Part 2

Errol arrives in Sebastopol to look for himself. We get to see maps at last.

Part 3

blog posts on

Who’s Zooming Who?
–Errol Morris’ obsessive investigation of a Roger Fenton photograph.

But Which Thousand Words is the Picture Worth?

Jim Lewis in Slate, 1 November 2007. Notable mainly for working out that the three-part essay plus comment stream is slightly longer than Moby Dick. Guess he would hate Bela Tarr’s Satantango.

Béla Tarr’s Long Takes (an education in film)

FILM Satantango (Sátántangó) by Béla Tarr {2}


wiki: Roger Fenton

N.B. mentions that Fenton’s equipment limited him to posed photos and landscapes because of the long exposures needed.

Roger Fenton – the first war photographer

Post in Slugger O’Toole blog • Gives background of Fenton himself • His photographic techniques • Crimean adventure, which lasted for 3 months from mid-march 1855 to mid-June 1855 • Under what auspices he went there • Limitations he was under

Crimean War Photographs by Roger Fenton March-June 1855

First photo is canon balls on road [ON]

My comments

The two photos above are not Fenton’s. But in one you can clearly see men standing amongst canon balls in a road not dissimilar to The valley of the Shadow of Death. Difficult to see but looks like one man has a big canon ball on his shoulder.

The fun of Errol’s story is he’s determined to solve it all from the photos. That’s all you’ve allowed. (He then can’t resit popping over to walk up and down dusty Crimean tracks himself with his girlfriend in tow…and who can blame him. I’d’ve been there before the developing fluid had dried).

Of course, in real life the wider context – things beyond one set of evidence – is always examined – what usually goes on in an area to make the specific event in time and space different or similar. Here, there are 2 photos known to have been taken within an hour or two of each other according to the photographer. As Morris says, its the first movie.

Let’s talk movies for a moment for light relief from 25 lb canon balls. Godard in his long interview, Fragments of Conversations with Jean-Luc Godard, talks about the famous footage of a little Palestinian girl standing in the ruins of Carmel near Haifa declaiming a famous poem, I will Resist, by Mahmoud Darwish, that Godard uses in his film Ici et Ailleurs. They are discussing authentic or inauthentic. It’s given the thumps up even if it’s staged.

There is no story without the two canon ball photos, OFF and ON. If ON had been the only one (maybe Fenton destroys OFF), who’d then or now be discussing canon balls in the Crimea? I wonder if the strength of the message was destroyed (whether or not it was staged) by seeing OFF as well as ON. Very few keen eyes would be questioning whether the balls on the road in ON where not randomly enough distributed.

Erroll did another essay on photography Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire (NYT 10 July 2007). This one on Fenton’s Crimean canon balls is fun because there were two photos. The main challenge for Errol: to decide which was the before and which the after. (Kids of a certain age could have great fun with this. 7-8 years old would be perfect. They love those cartoon before and after pictures.)

Not surprisingly, in the end the story strays into the realms of conjecture based on such unreliable things as what humans would be expected to do. Well, despite high-tech tools, the analyst he has asked to look at the photographs inevitably strays into this territory because there isn’t really enough to work on. Errol is keener to stick the the original premise: What can can be deduced from the photographs alone. He wants to avoid:

…arguing that to interpret a picture we need more than the picture itself..

Commenter crazymonk way down in the comments has posted links to enlargements of OFF and ON photos, with the idea to open them in adjoining tabs and flick between the two to see the rock movement:


I don’t find it very easy to see the rocks moving, but very easy to see balls moving. One ball in the centre foreground disappears in ON. Three balls in the left foreground move. In enlarge (clicking the plus sign on your cursor over pic) it’s very easy to see one ball on the right of the track at 2 O’clock – just in front of a small rock outcrop – appear on the track no more that 1 metre or so SW of it’s original position. The more you click the more you see displacements. Right in the centre of the photograph in the ditch full of balls, three more appear in ON. In OFF there are a bunch of 9 in the mid- foreground

which are joined by by two more, here, for example, next to the little rock

one carefully placed to its right between two others, above and below it, in OFF. So they are not only going on the road itself, but more have been added to the ditch! The more you look the more you see. Above this group three balls appear in ON that weren’t there in OFF.

Has the man posting these photos in the comments been up to no good, moving balls digitally to pass away long lonely evenings when there was noting worth watching on t.v.? Few of us reading Errol on Crimean Canon Balls are looking at the original prints but digital copies! There is no certainty the digital versions are exactly the same as the real prints. Even the one in the Fenton digital archives might not be identical to the original. Even more important, will people in the future ever be able to tell what was going on in photographs with any certainty as more digital copies are produced?

This is another one of Fenton’s. No, no, no don’t start counting those. Maybe there is only one of these.

Oh, by the way, yes that’s Roger Fenton the man himself posing at the top. I deliberately didn’t put his name there, so that you’d see the posed shot, read the long essay, then see canon ball photos, and – like in clever films which use a technique of inserting a shot which is only explained much further on (My favourite, mentioned more than once in my posts is the bird of prey swooping on the white chickens at the beginning of Kieslowski’s Camera Buff) – think about the posing Fenton when thinking about his Crimean balls.

Surely this self-portrait is the sort of evidence we also need to decide whether the canon balls were moved ON to create a more artsy shot. For me there no need for rock movement analysis really. If there are 9 balls in one cluster in the OFF ditch and 11 in the ON ditch, that says they were moved there as well as those onto the road itself. Simply because another fusillade from the Russian batteries would probably have sent dozens of new balls into the area. It does say somewhere that they regularly shot up on to the road whether there were troop movements or not, just to act as discouragement to try.

As is apparent from the Morris essay and other sources, Fenton’s stock in trade was posed photos of the military personnel and landscapes, both suited to long exposures needed.

It’s still a great war photograph even if it was posed.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Errol Morris, photographic analysis, photography, Richard Pare, Roger Fenton, Susan Sontag, Ulrich Keller | , , , , | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography

post from Open Culture 29 Dec 2011, includes video from Guardian’s Comment is free series. Written by photographer Eugene Buchko

A text of a lecture given by Errol Morris from his website which covers the same ground in more detail, both dealing with elements of his book Believing is Seeing.

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Errol Morris, photography | Leave a comment


source: {1}

► My theory is that deceit does not require language. To lie, you have to make a statement. You have to say something in words for it to be a lie. But deceit only requires misdirection. All it requires is the intent to have someone think something that is different from what you believe. ◄

► One of the nice things about Cambridge, Massachusetts is that ‘Baudrillard’ isn’t in the phone book. ◄

Errol Morris: Biography from his website

Wiki : Errol Morris

Famous for documentary The Thin Blue Line (1988) and

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)

He’s written a 5-part article:

Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck? (Part One)

Errol Morris, New York Times, 19 June 2011

If the link doesn’t work, you may have to register with NYT.

“Believing Is Seeing”: Truth, lies and photographs

–The director of “The Thin Blue Line” investigates five famous accusations of photographic fraud

Laura Miller, Salon 29 August 2011

Errol has written a book Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography)

Book review: ‘Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography)’
–Enigmatic filmmaker Errol Morris doesn’t arrive at comforting conclusions in his six essays on visual art and artifice.

Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 28August 2011


Believing Is Seeing

Errol Morris, NYT 13 July 2008 [short]

Seven Lies About Lying (Part 1)

Errol Morris, NYT, 5 August 2009

Photography as a Weapon

Errol Morris, NYT, 11 August 2008

Cartesian Blogging, Part Three

Errol Morris, NYT, 12 November 2008 [replies to comments in Photography as a Weapon]

Recovering Reality: A Conversation with Errol Morris for the Columbia Journalism Review.

YouTube: 8 mins

Werner Herzog and Errol Morris (1 of 4)

A very shaky home video which you’d be best to treat as a radio prog. No close-ups. Just a recording of two men on a platform, wobbling and gyrating and mostly out of focus. Which I love, because here’s a person in an Audience With (so far unknown..) who admires these two men and wants to record what they say on video, but fails to live up to the two directors film skills both, while admiring their film and book talk.

Mirabile dictu, the sound quality is quite good, if a bit hissy at times. Both are clear. Two different sources, probably. The guy with the little video camera -we joke- didn’t go on to be a film-maker (in his epilogue…) and use a tripod, or chuck it and buy an anti-shake DVC. Or just learn that thing of relaxing and letting the camera float at the end of the arm.

Errol Morris #8

Describes on video an opportunity to write for The New York Times, when thought he was permanently blocked – for 40 years ! – which allowed him, in the process of writing, to develop projects that were unfinished or he thought might not come to fruition.

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Errol Morris, film directors, film documentary, photography | , | Leave a comment

FILM PHOTOGRAPHY ESSAYS The impact of the still within the medium of the moving image

‘..the impact of the still within the medium of the moving image’ are film-maker Kathy Drayton’s words in her essay, Inspiration and Girl in a Mirror.

There is a trailer of Kathy Drayton’s film, Girl in a Mirror: A Portrait of Carol Jerrems, in YouTube.

To make a pair, The Album of Everyday Life: The Photograph in the Films of Nuri Bilge Ceylan by Sarinah Masukor.

Both these came from Issue 29 of Screening the Past, via Catherine Grant’s Film Studies for Free.

More on Girl in a Mirror and Carol Jerrems:

Girl in a Mirror – A Portrait of Carol Jerrems
by Kate Raynor (Study Guide from ATOM, Australian Teachers of Media)

November 28, 2010 Posted by | film [its techniques], Kathy Drayton, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, photography | , | Leave a comment

FILM – Caché (Hidden) [2005] – Michael Haneke – the mechanisms of secrecy, amnesia and denial.

NOTE: 20 June 2020

Many of these links are now dead, but re-searching will probably get most of the titles up.

Posted 25 November 2009

FILM SNIP HANEKE CACHE cacher cassalls
Cassell’s French-English Dictionary

“I try to construct stories so that several explanations are possible, to give the viewers the freedom to interpret. I do it by everything I don’t show, and through all the questions I raise and don’t answer. That way, the audience doesn’t finish with the film as quickly as if I’d answered everything.”

— Michael Haneke

“Cache” is one of those films that I instantly hated from the bottom of my heart for being incredibly pretentious while having the substance of a mediocre high-school essay

—a pseudonymous ‘novakant‘.

Wiki: Caché

Dialogue transcript (not screenplay/script) from Script-O-Rama
A continuous dialogue without scene divisions. Not a script or screenplay as such.

Reviews and Analysis

These reviews and analyses contain spoilers. I’m trying to gather together here some of the better ones. The reviews and more academic papers have got a bit jumbled as more have been added. None are in order of importance.

Three additions on 24 January 2010:

Two recent posts posts by Jim Emerson, What is hidden in Caché? and, The Haneke MacGuffin: What is the mystery? and a long essay in Cinephile by Seung-hoon Jeong, Gaze, Suture, Interface: The Suicide Scene in Michael Haneke’s Caché. Personally, I haven’t the slightest idea what this Lacanian stuff means, and I don’t suppose many do.

Two more reviews added May 2014:

Caché (Haneke, 2005) and the concept of Realism from Cultural Zeitgeist 3 November 2102 [link from Cache/ Hidden (2005)… Haneke’s physical and ideological silence]

A wiki:The Fright of Real Tears, which refers to a book by Zizek, The Flight of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory, does help a little with this if you don’t want to spend half your life on it, but get some basic idea, including the term suture. There is an interesting section in the wiki, The Fictional Nature of Reality and the Art of Kieslowski, for those interested in Kieslowski. And a link to an article by David Bordwell, from the other camp, titled, Slavoj Zizek: Say Anything, taking on Zizek’s book.

The paper has the benefit however, of a Vimeo of the initial part of the suicide of Majid (French, no subtitles) for purposes of reminding us where the camera is positioned (though the full effect of the static camera can only be experienced by seeing the whole shot) and four stills from the film. Though the final one of the credits is not particularly helpful because it doesn’t show either of the sons.

COTA Award for Best Title for a Review of Caché goes to […..pause] :

The Discreet Masochism of the Bourgeoisie by A O Scott in NYT. Unfortunately the review itself doesn’t stand up to the promise of the title. Scott does mention the BoBo business directly, whereas others don’t. Bobo link at the bottom.

Hidden (Caché) by Peter Bradshaw [Guardian, 2006]

Final paragraph succinctness:

Hidden is Michael Haneke’s masterpiece: a compelling politico-psychological essay about the denial and guilt mixed into the foundations of western prosperity, composed and filmed with remarkable technique. It is one of the great films of this decade.

Review: Caché (Hidden) [Christopher Campbell, Cinematical]
Header still photo from Caché of Georges at his desk, Anne on the phone, and the TV showing war footage. Mention of ’61 massacre and Papon: links to page on 1992 documentary: Drowning by Bullets.

Hidden [Anton Bitel, Eye for Film]

Caché [Ken Hanke]

Caché : Smile You’re on Candid Camera [Marty Mapes]

Caché (Hidden) [Frank Swietek, Ass. Prof. Hist., U of Dallas]

Caché [Lon Harris, Crushed by Inertia blog]
Maybe he muses Monty Python’s sketch : Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things does the job quicker. ( “I have just discovered, gentlemen,” Graham Chapman announces as club president, “that this entire room is surrounded by film.”)

Hidden (Caché) Ben Greener [in MusicOMH]

We love Hidden. But what does it mean? [Jason Solomons, Guardian]

Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005) Liam O’Brian in Projectorheads in which there are short reviews of other Haneke films]

Caché (Hidden) A review by Michael Farman.

Review by Fred Thom in Plume Noir

Et Alors? Michael Haneke’s Hidden. A short review by Grahame Hobbs in MovieMail to accompany the advert for the Artifical Eye DVD.

Caché – A Film Review by James Berardinelli

Cache [Robert Ebert, 2006]

The Times names Haneke’s ‘Caché’ the decade’s best. [from In Contention film blog.]

Caché’ tries to dig into what lies beneath, but comes up empty [Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle]

….we’re expected to see this bad thing he did — for personal, not racial or political reasons — as the story of French colonialism (!) writ small.

Flashbacks [John Petrakis, Christian Century, 21 Feb 2006]

“Hidden/Cache” by Michael Haneke [Konstantinos Vassilaros]

Guilt, lies and videotape [Mark lawson, Guardian, 21 Jan. 2006]

Hidden Meanings in Haneke’s Mystery Lie Deeper than You Think [Tim Milfull, MC Reviews]

Hidden (Caché) [ Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat ]

Cache and the Post-Post-Modern Film – The Search For Authenticity [A blog post from politick]

Caché (Hidden) – Michael Haneke [Zettel]

A View to a Kill By Adam Nayman

The Tell-Tale Tapes? The Trouble with Caché Jeff Ignatius in Culture Snob

Cache/Hidden [Reynolds in We Like to Watch]

Long post and long comments stream.

Deep Cuts by Benjamin Ogrodnik, {2} Film International, Issue 37.

Para 1:

” Michael Haneke’s most explicitly political film, the French psychological thriller Caché (2005), is also his most self-reflexive, obsessed as it is with the social impact of media images on the real world. Throughout, the film exposes how narrative devices in the mass media advance specific political agendas and interpretations. While interrogating taken-for-granted storytelling elements of the film form in particular, Caché also critiques the media construction of racial identity, and addresses the larger issue of contemporary race relations in the Western world. As an allegory about the failure of Algerian assimilation into a multicultural melting pot of French identity, it highlights the ongoing tensions between the former colonialist White culture and the once-colonized ethnic culture of Algerians struggling to coexist in France. In all these was, Caché examines present-day neo-colonial racism and Eurocentric projections of the past, focussing on the media’s role in channeling and reinforcing hostilities that foreclose any possibility of moving beyond racial divisions.”

Ogrodnik’s argument focuses on George’s attitude to other races (hidden, but exposed by the pressures of believing he is being got at by one of them he used to know as a child…), and the shift in the audience’ s sympathy towards the immigrant characters. Majid’s son, to confuse matters, or to make them clearer (is it race not immigration? Or both?) is the second generation born in France.

The film doesn’t show George’s attitude to other classes in French society, except in so much as he and his friends are cloistered by class and success from them. The way the film is structured makes Georges isolated from all ordinary French people: he doesn’t go into a bar and order a drink, but buys a drink from a dispenser in a completely empty shop; the Laurents don’t even have a servant to whom they they might be shown relating. He may well, for all we know, be as unempathetic to the lower orders in general as he is to the immigrants. Does the way Haneke shows Georges’ response to a (hidden) threat mean this is how we are expected to assume all people of his type would respond similarly?

A point missed by commentators is that George’s parents were perhaps not what he has become. That is, although they were French Algerian’s and racists by default, France has since had the added effect of Le Pen’s Front National (interestingly he was an intelligence officer in Algeria 1n 1957, accused of torture). But it was 1961 and there weren’t so many Arab immigrants in those days – is it suggesting the racism has developed in the succeeding decades? The parents were prepared to go to Paris in 1961 to look for the missing parents of Majid – recent immigrants from Algeria – and think about adopting their child when it is discovered they have probably been killed during the FLN protests.

In talking to his elderly mother at the family home, George evokes no enthusiasm in her for the subject, which she sees as in the past. We are left wondering whether she really doesn’t care about Majid, or whether her guilt and shame prevents her from articulating any concern. She doesn’t even know who George is talking about at first, or so she tells him. Though she asks Georges what he is thinking – and he refuses to tell her much – we get the impression this is a sort of collusion. They have both forgotten or hidden in different ways. Georges, unlike his mother, has had cause to think (and dream) about his past because of something that has recently happened. But then George’s mother may have no memory of these past events, which contrasts nicely with his clear remembrance – necessary in order for him to feel shame or guilt.

In reality someone of Georges mother’s age would know very well how to relate the Magreb Arabs of the modern era living in France with the history of Algerian crisis of the 50s and 60s. The point is many of the whites were themselves pieds-noirs (French born in Algeria), or their descendants — people who lost their jobs, properties and businesses and fled Algeria as a result of the independence struggle and eventual formation of an Algeria free of colonial control — but were in their turn scorned by the indigenous French. Algerian and France went back over a century to 1830. The best place to find all the details is the definitive book: A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-62 by Alistair Horne [1977]. This was the book all the top people in the U.S. were reading in 2003, including Donald Rumsfeld. The consensus seems to be they thought this might be a manual for what to do with an Iraqi insurgency based on the French Army’s experience, but of course it’s a warning what not to do.

Even the most cursory research shows how there was a massive influx of over 1 million Pieds-noir back into France after Algerian independence in 1962. As the wiki on Pieds-noir says:

Upon arriving, they suffered ostracism from the Left for their perceived exploitation of native Muslims and for having caused the war, thus the political turmoil surrounding the collapse of the French Fourth Republic.[2] In popular culture, the community is often represented as feeling removed from French culture while longing for Algeria.[2][4] Thus, the recent history of the pieds-noirs has been imprinted with a theme of double alienation from both their native homeland and their adopted land.


The Pied-Noir relationship with France and Algeria was marked by alienation. The settlers considered themselves French,[16] but many of the Pieds-Noirs had a tenuous connection to mainland France, which 28 percent of them had never visited. The settlers encompassed a range of socioeconomic strata, ranging from peasants to large landowners, the latter of whom were referred to as grand colons.[16][17]

In Algeria, the Muslims were not considered French and did not share the same political or economic benefits.[16] For example, the indigenous population did not own most of the settlements, farms, or businesses, although they numbered nearly 9 million (versus roughly one million Pieds-Noirs) at independence. Politically, the Muslim Algerians had no representation in the Algerian National Assembly and wielded limited influence in local governance.[18] To obtain citizenship, they were required to renounce their Muslim identity. Since this would constitute apostasy, only about 2,500 Muslims acquired citizenship before 1930.[17][18] The settlers’ politically and economically dominant position worsened relations between the two groups.

If one is able to take in all this extra-film detail, or know about it before watching it, it isn’t difficult to see how George’s lack of sympathy for Majid ties in well with the callous way the French decimated the Algerian population during their rule and in their attempt to stop the FLN. The loss of Algeria was seen as massive blow to French pride. Something like 200,000 French originally settled in Algeria. Paradoxically, when the descendants of these farmers needed to return to the mother country after Algerian independence, the French were not too keen on them, hence the term Pied-Noir.

It’s well worth reading the wiki entries on Algeria’s colonial past. Telling facts such as how much land the white settlers held compared to the Arabs add to the impact of the film. Probably best to watch the film first and then read the background for a second watching. Though of course it’s in French and most French will be fully aware of this stuff. At the bottom amongst the list of notable pied-noirs is Daniele Auteuil, perhaps more famous for his role in Jean de Florette, who takes the part of Georges.

Though Georges’ lack of concern for Majid – when he finally meets him again for the first time since childhood – might hint that this is the way these type of people think anyway about the Majids of the world, to me this makes it as much a specific problem Georges has, both in how he sees he has to maintain his middle-class position, respectability and influence and – exposed progressively in the film – in his revealed racial attitudes. The only problem is the sole point of reference to this rather to be forgotten past is the reference at the dinner party to FLN demonstrations in Paris in ’62. It does not open out into a recognition that the French killed about a million Arabs in the course of their colonisation of Algeria from 1830. It was a brutal colonisation and so there really was a lot to hide! I begin to wonder whether this process of hiding and not remembering is peculiarly French. That is to say, the German’s have a lot to feel guilty about but it covered roughly 1933-45, whereas the French had a couple of centuries to both absorb and deal with their past, which might explain how deep rooted the racism is. Haneke is an Austrian, so it is an outsiders view. What films are there made by French film-makers who deal with these issues?

The word scapegoating is not mentioned, but the audience is allowed to examine whether this might be a species of the genus, and so refer itself, during or after the film, to Great Scapegoats of Our Times.

Whereas Georges’ parents lived in the era of the last Algerian War – which led finally to independence after a struggle that began post-1945 – and might be expected to have anti-Algerian sentiments, as was common among the French at the time who were losing an important colony (and being inundated with large numbers of pied noirs as a result, which is another, though interesting story) – George was a very young child at the time. One suspects if he now has strong racist feelings, particularly about Magreb Arabs, for example, or maybe anyone from Africa, it is something he has learnt growing up in France in the intervening years: that many like him will feel threatened by the large immigrant population, and/or that is it being suggested that it is a spasm of his type: he has been conditioned to react like this, unthinkingly, because of his status and position in life. This is not certain: I would refer anyone thinking about this to the attitude of many French to the plight of French Jews at the time of Vichy. Though individuals did help individual Jews, there was no massive outcry about their transport to Germany. Indeed, the notorious Milice cooperated with the German authorities in rounding them up. This has been dramatised in many films depicting the period. Going beyond this there is the history of French far-right groups such as Action Française.

Sarkozy himself, as interior minister in 2005 when the race riots took place in many cities in France, called the rioting French youth racaille [wiki: 2005 civil unrest in France].

A woman resident of an estate hit by rioting asked Sarkozy:

Monsieur Sarkozy, est-ce que vous pouvez nous débarrasser de cette racaille? (Monsieur Sarkozy can you get rid of these racaille {2} {3} for us?)

His response was:

Vous voulez qu’on vous débarrasse de cette racaille, on va le faire. (You want us to get rid of these thugs? We’re on the case)

A snatch of TV footage of Sarkozy’s remarks are on YouTube.

In the wiki there is mention of:

….a common perception, especially among foreigners and descendants of the recent waves of immigration, that French society has long made a practice of hiding, or at least whitewashing, its numerous signs and symptoms of racism xenophobia and classism, by all accounts at least equal in intensity to those in other European countries [..].

The suggestion being that he has absorbed this way of thinking (and hiding it) from French society as a whole. He is provoked into exposing his real feelings. Society has had a slanted view of things presented to it by a biased and manipulative media (government should be implicated as well in its earlier control of  media): represented in the film both by Georges’ editing of his TV programme but also by mention of the 1961 Paris Massacre, which though known about at the time he utters the remarks, was not at the time it happened, because the media did not report it.

Haneke presents the killing of supporters of the FLN in ’61 as a brief description of what happened coming from the mouth of Georges himself, who is shown not showing any angst about it as he chats with the guests at his diner party. He is just relating a historical event.

The question is whether this sort of unthinking racism is particularly virulent in France in comparison with say Germany, Britain or the U.S. The film does not show any white working-class racial animosity. It shows the swimming instructors as being non-white, and the presumably all middle-class white children being allowed to be trained by them. It shows Georges waving amicably to an instructor. It shows mixed races coming out of the state school at the end of the film.

The danger, then, is the idea that the source of the racism is in the fear of the middle-classes. Presumably it then filters down to the working classes in the form of fear of loss of jobs and housing. Though the film shows an example of the subsidised state housing, HLM (habitation à loyer modéré), in the block in which Majid lives, it does not show whether these are all immigrant/non-white ghettos.

Haneke expects the intelligent viewer to tease out the racism per se from the concerns of the middle-classes for their own self- perpetuation/preservation. A key element of the film is the way that Georges goes about trying to shore up his status and power in the face of a perceived threat. He doesn’t suspect his cohorts but rather the lower orders. I thought, on watching the film again, that we were witnessing some sort of anomaly. Even if Georges had imbibed the hatred of (and/or indifference to) immigrants from his parents and society itself, he would surely be expected, as a highly intelligent man, to suspect he was being got at by someone in his family, or at work, or a member of the public who didn’t like his TV programme or in the media itself, before thinking it was an Algerian from his past. This particular Algerian, Majid, was born in France. He’s not just arrived in France. he may have worked and done his bit, but is now in hard times and showing the strain.

I am finding Ogrodnik’s analysis very useful as I explore Haneke’s Caché.

At several points he uses the word Anglo. I assumed this was interchangeable with Western at first:

Is he suggesting the French media are Anglo-orientated? That their modus/ethos is borrowed from the English-speaking media? The French themselves would not think so! Or does this mean a kind of default? That medias of this type (here French TV, as an example) by default use the manipulative and controlling ethos developed by and common in the English speaking media? (A debate about the way the BBC operates in comparison would be instructive…)

The French experience of course is with state controlled TV and radio as well as commercial. My thinking is along the lines of Haneke using the French media as a particularly bad example of bias/control, in that the 1961 Paris massacre of FLN supporters (and their mass detention using the same detention centres as the Vichy govt….Papon is mentioned in Cache: he was part of Vichy and the Algerian repressive apparatus, but also ended up a minster of Finance in a Barre and Giscard govt.), according to what I have been able to learn from the web, was just not reported in the press/media, so the public really didn’t know about it until it came out in the Papon trial in the late 90s. But this is state/media collusion. Can one say that this happens regularly in the US for example? Well, no, Nixon got found out. The Vietnam war was fully reported in all is gory detail, etc. and helped to end it. The same mistake was not made with the First and Second Gulf Wars.

I find it amusing that Mitterrand’s (once hidden…then revealed when it no longer mattered) daughter is an actor taking the part of a panelist on George’s TV book prog. And that Mitterrand himself had ‘hidden’ elements, which people are still not sure about. Very murky and uncertain. Was he a socialist doing undercover work in Vichy, or was he playing a double game?

Mitterrand when president is now know to have ordered the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour. But his direct involvement didn’t come out till much later. Perhaps the film should have been called Caché!

A subject that greatly interests me – though nothing directly to do with Haneke’s film – is Mitterrand the Jansenist. Though it is a long way from the immediate meanings and purposes of Haneke’s Caché, there is something in this Loyalist/Catholic thing, which Mitterrand seemed linked in some way to, that explains Petain and Vichy and might in turn suggest other underlying reasons for the racism in France.

For Caché to do the work it is meant to in creating a world of images and ideas stimulated by Haneke’s script, the audience has to be a pretty knowledgeable one. So George spelling out, admitting to his friends and wife at a diner party (after showing them one of the videos he hasn’t seen because it has just ‘arrived’) what happened in Nov. 1961 in Paris (Haneke has to make it a mini essay – albeit with no analysis from George or the guests – or no one would know what he meant…) would not strike up many emotional resonances in an American movie audience as it would in a French one. It doesn’t move Georges as he retells the story. And none of the diner guests, all media types, take it up, for example as being a stain on the honour or France. They prefer to listen to a shaggy dog story told by one of the guests. And (in my simplified words), what Haneke cleverly does is make his audience (here particularly the French one…) feel the desire to hide things as they watch the film, while at the same witnessing the extent to which a character lies and hides in order to uphold (as he sees it) his privileged middle-class identity!

Secrets, Lies & Videotape By Catherine Wheatley (BFI) In one scroll, but dealt with under headings. Roughly 3-4 pages equivalent.

Hidden in plain sight: Robin Wood on Michael Haneke’s Cache

originally in ArtForum, Jan, 2006.

Michael Haneke’s Caché By Florence Jacobowitz

Originally in CineAction, Winter, 2006.

p. 2 of 4:

‘Caché exposes the extent to which the bourgeois class safeguard the mythologies that empower and conceal its dark side.’

Then follows how Georges puts these into effect in his own life. An important sentence:

‘They have lost their ability to respond to life without the encumbrances of first having to protect their reputation and social position.’

There are many things in the film, many strands, personal, sociological and political, but this seems to be key to understanding it. We can examine various elements such as the meaning of the mention of the massacre of 1961, the heavy editing of his TV book programme, which parts of the film are remembered, imagined or dreamed, which are literal, which metaphorical or allegorical, but in the end these two phrases are the heart of the film.

An entry in Nationmaster has a suggestion at the end about the meaning of the final scene:

The question of who sent the tapes is open to interpretation. Majid and his son both deny involvement. There is a cryptic last scene (as the credits roll) of Pierrot and Majid’s son interacting in front of Pierrot’s school. Haneke has said in interviews that at first he included the sound of their dialogue, then he removed it. Another interpretation is that the tapes were shot by Haneke himself to confront Georges with his past. The foreshadowing of Majid’s suicide in the drawings delivered to Georges supports this interpretation.

Left Behinds blog has a post, New movies: Caché? What does it mean?, and a follow up post Update: Caché’s meaning, pretty much enters the territory I am, slowly. He includes a frame grab of Majid’s son and Pierrot that is almost the same as the one I snipped after watching it in the other day. I was looking for any contact and affability between the two, and here he gets that with son touching Pierrot with left hand, facing the camera.

The comment stream in the second post is long, with many suggestions.

A long analysis in Not Coming to a Theatre near You, starts with the TV studio shot, which it claims segues from the traditional, standard pull back shot at the end of studio programmes, but turns into a tracking shot that is Haneke’s camera rather than the studio camera, which ‘watches’ as Georges leaves the set to take call behind the scenery of the set. SEE still at head of post.

In the Artifical Eye DVD there is both an interview with Haneke and a short film on the making of the film, in which he talks as well. At one point he mentions having tried in the past to film dreams without success.

Nowhere to hide – Hari Kunzru assesses the films of Michael Haneke
(Guardian, 31 October 2009)

A Cache of Guilt : Michael Haneke turns his camera on the audience in his latest film, Caché. Noy Thrupkaew

Hidden Agenda Jason McBride

Monsters and Critics DVD Review (Frank Dees)

Girish blog post, Caché.

The French Lesson by Stephen Metcalf in Slate.

I have found myself unable to shake Caché. I am still poring over its studied ambiguities, arguing with its facile-fashionable politics, poking its dead zones, to see if it might yield even a modest smile, a drop of social hope. Life is short, and one function of a critic is to grant permission to ignore pretentious bullies like Haneke. In this instance, though, permission denied. Go see Caché.

Film blog post, Films I love #35: Cache (Michael Haneke), has a brief comment but here mostly for the set of clear 16 stills included.

Paul Arthur in a 2-page article, End Game, in the website of The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Downcast Eyes: Michael Haneke and the Cinema of Intrusion by Asbjorn Gronstad, Nordicom Review 29, pp. 133-144 [pdf]

Ambivalence and Displacement in Michael Haneke’s Caché (Mary Caputi, Cal. State University) [12 pages]

Auteur de force: Michael Haneke’s “cinema of glaciation”. Roy Grundmann reviews DVDs od earlier films (originally in Cineaste).

Video discussion

1 hr. 25 min. YouTube video academic discussion of Caché, from the Philoctetes Center, with Roy Grundsman, Edward Nersessian, Brigitte Peucker, Brian Price and Garrett Stewart.

Profiles/Interviews with Haneke

Family Is Hell and So Is the World : Talking to Michael Haneke at Cannes 2005 (Bright Lights Film Journal)

The Unhappy World of Michael Haneke by Alan Riding [NYT]

De-icing the Emotions -Michael Haneke’s retrospective in London [Kinoeye]

Michael Haneke profile/filmography [at alt-flix]

Austrian Film Commission.

Senses of cinema – Michael Haneke – by Mattiad Frey – before Caché.

What do Algerians think of Caché?

I can’t find anything on the web in English. If you have read something in Arabic or French in an Algerian newspaper published in France or Algeria on the web, please let me know.

The nearest I could get was Why, French Algerians’ football celebrations turned into a battle, Andrew Hussey Observer, 22 November 2009, in which the film gets a mention because it came out in 2005 at roughly the same time as the 2005 riots.

If you are really into the background to the French and the Algerians, then Alistair Horne is your man. Details of his book below.

Meanwhile, here are some more political interpretations of Caché:

I came across this article in World Socialist Web Site (isn’t website meant to one word?): The Artist has not done the most difficult work, by David Walsh argues for a kind of false objectivity in Caché while also:

Haneke (born in 1942) often returns to the coldness of society. Speaking of Austria, he refers to “my country’s emotional glaciation.” An awful indifference and distance generally separate his characters. Intelligent but deliberately chilly, Haneke’s films have tended to register certain moods of the European middle class in recent decades—increasing paranoia and tension, a sense of being overwhelmed by events, perhaps xenophobia—without, however, shedding a great deal of light on them.

In the name of rejecting the facile approach of certain socially-conscious filmmakers of the past, directors such as Haneke (and he is one among many, particularly in Austria, Germany and France) evade the responsibility of adopting any strong or recognizable attitude toward contemporary society. In reality, this false objectivity, presented as ‘letting the audience think for itself,’ is a concession to a confused and stagnant political climate.

Walsh does a good job in showing the limits of Haneke’s ideas, calling him light-headed in connecting Georges the six year old’s treatment of the child Majid with ‘the legacy of French colonialism!’ I recommend you read this as an antidote if you have become fixated on the film.

So far no North African reviews to get another perspective. I’ll keep looking. If someone could point me to an Algerian film review, I would be eternally grateful.

This abstract from a The Empire Looks Back by Max Silverman in Screen, 2007, 48(2), 245-249, is the first piece I have read in my Cache odyssey, to bring in Fanon. Wonder if Haneke’s bookshelves holds The Wretched of the Earth. Would that explain the bloody drawings and the bloody throat slitting in Caché ?

To read this snip, open in another tab:

Eye Wide Shut: of politics in French cinema, and more specifically in Michael Haneke’s Hidden by a certain Nico, starts rather promisingly with “Hidden is both interesting and a rather bad movie”, later asserting: ” Hidden represents what it denounces and reaches a refined form of harmless critique, the kind that lets good middle class citizens laugh at their own situation and happily bask in it in the same movement. “

Movies: revenge is a dish best served competently, a post on Caché from blog, And Now the Screaming Starts, bridges the gap between the personal and the political by positing Hanek 1 and Haneke 2.:

First there’s the genre-subverting, meticulous, unsentimental, and rigorous artist. This Haneke does all the work. Then, throughout his flicks and somewhat at random, a second Haneke – a ham-fisted, ingenuous, and simple-minded – drops in awkward political asides that are so egregiously thoughtless that many otherwise sympathetic and astute viewers assume that they’re being insulted.

More History/Sociology/Politics

A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne.  New York Review of Books paperback edition 2006, with new preface together with original preface of  1977 edition.

Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962)
1 page summary: mentions Sarkozy’s role as Minister of Interior in 2005 riots.

Essays in the SSRC website:

This is just one. The others are in the side panel on the left of the page in this essay:

Postcolonial Urban Apartheid Esaay by Paul A. Silverstein; Chantal Tetreault

….the French state’s self-congratulatory colonial “civilizing mission” turned post-colonial “integrating mission” which for the last fifty years has sought to transform the children of immigrants and other members of the suburban underclass into productive Frenchmen, all the while projecting them as suspect and potentially violent citizens.

Wiki: Paris Massacre of 1961
Check out the heading “the Massacre in popular culture – which mentions the first verse of Sticky Little Fingers’, “When The Stars Fall from The Sky”:

Mid-October, sixty one
The French Police were having fun
Cutting down Algerians
Breaking heads all over town
Yet no-one saw and no-one knew
No-one dared to speak the truth
200 dead became just two
Sweep them in the river
The witnesses were run to the ground
Put the bastards underground
Buried every black in town
Who dared to show their face

Mazarine Pingeot (the hidden daughter of Francois Mitterrand) – guest in George’s TV book programme. Mitterrand himself – where will this end? – was himself a bit of a hider of things such as his role in Vichy. Papon, of ’61 Massacre fame, was a Vichy functionary. But before that Papon was a Police chief in Algeria at the height of the Algerian War, who rose to become a Minister. If we can say anything, we can say that Hanke has read some stuff! He admitted to having seen the TV documentary on the ’61 massacre before making Caché.

SEE Maurice Papon, Vichy and Algeria, dissertation by Stepahie Hare-Cumming, L. Sch. of Economics.

Papon ended up as Budget Minister under Barre and Giscard d’Estaing and was buried with the Legion of Honour awarded by De Gaulle in July 1961, a few months before the Paris massacre.

To me the most fascinating ‘caché’ was Mitterand’s: how he started off under Petain (Vichysto-résistant?) and ended up as socialist president: was he a Vichyist who changed sides, or always a Free-French undercover agent. He was right wing before the war. As a functionary in the Vichy Government, he eventually turned against Vichy because of Prime Minister Lavel’s (started off a socialist and became right wing) decision to send French workers to Germany.

It is now known Mitterand, as president, ordered the sinking of Rainbow Warrior.

The great caché for France is its failure to come to terms with Vichy. From the list of additional meanings of caché: was it caché/enterré, or perhaps cache/difficile a trouver?

World Reactions to the 1961 Paris Pogrom by Daniel A Gordon, University of Susses Journal of Contemporary History, 1, (2000)

HLM ( habitation à loyer modéré) – wiki on subsidised housing in France.

BoBo [ Bourgeois Bohême ] – definition in Urban Dictionary. Georges Laurent uses the expression.

Policing Paris:Private Publics and Architectural Media in Michael Haneke’s Caché [Michael Gallagher, J. for Cultural research, Volume 12, Issue 1 January 2008, pp. 19-38)

There is a pay-for article. This is just a 7-line abstract, but the gist is there.

Secrets and revelations: Off-screen space in Michael Haneke’s cache [Libby Saxton, Studies in French Cinema, Vol 7 Number 1, 2007]. Summary and abstracts. Heavy academic tripe, but enough to tease out a few ideas.

“Cache is preoccupied, literally and metaphorically, with troubled, distorted or blinkered vision – with the mechanisms of secrecy, amnesia and denial that prevent us from taking responsibility for the past and facing the present clear-sightedly. The article argues that Haneke’s images produce meaning as much through what they conceal as through what they reveal, thereby exposing some of the blind spots that structure history, memory and spectatorship. “

” Defined by Jacques Aumont as `the collection of elements that, while not being included in the image itself, are nonetheless connected to that visible space in an imaginary fashion for the spectator’, off-screen space, or the hors-champ, is a permanent presence in cinema. It also remains one of the most enigmatic and persistently elusive of filmic sites. Michael Haneke’s critically acclaimed film Cache (2005) enlists both its protagonists and its viewers in a quest to make sense of off-screen space. Haneke’s camerawork, montage and mise-en-scene consistently accord priority to sites, events and entities which elude our gaze, yet which we nonetheless experience as irreducibly present, and which invest their visible counterparts with meaning. The film investigates the invisible dimensions not only of cinema, but also of digital video, surveillance footage and the mass media. Secrecy, concealment and blocked or obstructed vision emerge here as central formal and thematic preoccupations. Moreover, as Haneke explores the processes of repression, denial and amnesia involved”

” …..the growing suspicion that, in Cache, it is off-screen space which establishes on-screen space, rather than vice versa. For the contents of the frame is always already subject to the look of another – a look which cannot immediately be attributed to either director or spectator. This enigmatic look is at once the origin and the blind spot of the narrative. The plot turns on a series of attempts to uncover the identity and motives of a hidden presence who observes, films and even, in a certain sense, directs the action from beyond the frame. Cache opens with a prolonged, unbroken, static shot of the facade of a house filmed from a vantage point somewhere in the pointedly named rue des Iris in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris. The scene appears, at first, deceptively normal and tranquil; early morning birdsong and the hum of distant traffic are interrupted only by the passage of the odd pedestrian, cyclist or car. But as the minutes slip by, the image, still unchanged, gradually begins to appear more suspect. Ostensibly devoid of narratively significant action, the scene’s inertia and banality start to unsettle the audience. After a while, the image ceases to hold our attention, which wanders instead – confirming Burch’s observations about the centrifugal force of the `champ vide’ – towards off-screen space, as we wonder who else, besides us, might be looking, and why. This, we begin to realize, is not a conventional establishing shot; the longer “

” The stasis of the camera and image and the deferral of a counter-shot or alternative perspective prevent us from making sense of the space outside the frame. Eventually, nearly two-and-a-half minutes into the film, disembodied voices intrude on the soundtrack discussing an as yet unidentified object that was left in a porch in a plastic bag. Haneke then cuts briefly to a shot of a man and a woman leaving the house, and we watch the man peer in puzzlement up the Rue des Iris in the now failing light. As we return to the initial shot, horizontal tracking marks appear on the surface of the image, as if someone has pressed the fast-forward button on a remote control. These visual and aural clues arouse suspicions that are subsequently confirmed by a medium shot of the couple back inside the house in front of a television screen, remote control in hand. The protracted opening sequence is thus retrospectively identified as an excerpt from a videotape sent anonymously to a family whose home appears to be under surveillance. What we at first read as a long shot turns out instead to have been a close-up of the screen on which Georges and Anne Laurent are viewing the tape. Finally regaining our bearings, we realize that we are inside the house we are viewing from the outside. We thus share, at least temporarily, the confusion and disorientation of a couple we encounter in the uncanny situation of watching themselves being watched. What is more, from the very outset of the film, we find ourselves already implicated, as spectators, in an economy of voyeurism and surveillance. “

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Algeria, Algerian War, Caché, film reflexivity, film techniques, film within film, FLN Riots Paris 1962, Haneke, Michael Haneke, photography, pied nnoire | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fear of death is intransitive becomes cutting on the action


After a sudden inspiration, and a little consideration, it seemed a good idea to change the name fear of death is intransitive (which is, in any case, meant to be more motif than title) to cutting on the action to reflect my growing interest in and preoccupation with film and photography. Cutting on the action is often expressed as cutting on action, but it does not quite say what I want it to say beyond film technique.

Match cut means the same thing, roughly, but does not transfer out of film into other realms, as I like to think ‘cutting to the action’ does.

Cutting on the action is nicely explained in Basic training: cutting to action page in

There are quite a lot of Youtube videos, such as Horrors of War EDITING 1 web doc, which also do it well. They don’t get the interpretative value of a good title when they post in YouTube. Here, Horrors of War refers to a film used to explain the technique not to the editing process. Genus => species => variety, guys – please – and all will be much clear. So first say what it is about, then what about is about.


Solzhynitsyn once defined an intellectual as someone who had an insistent and persistent concern with the spiritual, which I take to mean soul: what man is or thinks he could be. Whether that meant overall or if one could be obsessed with one little corner of how men act and think and feel,to some effect, who knows.


fear of death is intransitive seemed like a good idea at the time – a word vase illusion: about how words are only as good at expressing what the author meant for them, as the care with which they were laid down one by one in a certain order – but the novelty has worn off now, and it is probably off-putting to many who think the blog might be focused on death: there must be an awful lot of people on the internet who have been looking for some way to overcome their fear of death who have ended up here reading about film and books and stuff.

The version of the vase illusion above appeals to me because it itself is more subtly designed than your average vase illusion and so flip-flops more readily. The bog-standard vase illusion in black and white often needs a bit of a perceptio-cognitive push to make it transform between faces and vase. And so, in a way, with words: sometimes they are so perfect they create a whole world without any help form the reader of them; sometimes just good enough to take you on a smaller, though not in itself not insignificant mental journey; often completely impenetrable and, in turn, in their way, as if created by a random sentence generator – or a deranged mind. Do they have a larger proportion of deranged intellectuals in France than elsewhere? (Reference to the myriad of totally impenetrable writers France seems to produce….)


What photography and film are, can do, means has become overidingly important to me. You watch hundreds of films in a life time and then wham, something happens – you get it. You really see why the greats of the stills and movie camera were so obsessed with their crafts. Not unlike looking at cubist paintings for years and then realising that while, before, you understood one of the principles of cubism as showing different views at the same time, now you live the feeling you imagine Picasso had at getting to that point in his artistic journey.


Cromer Pier 14 November 1993

The journey I have travelled to get to this point – reaching a sheer dazzlement at what film is and does – was not an epiphany out of the blue. I reached a similar point with photography 30 years ago. And somehow getting photography – though not how to take well executed photographs! – laid the ground for my much later getting of film, nurturing my ‘insistent and consistent’ desire to be a film-maker.

Girl and a Deer was one of the hundreds of duds on contact sheets which were never printed. Years later, once I had made up my mind this photo had really said something – would say something –  I spent several pleasurable hours framing and reframing it with sheets of white paper and paper clips to try to make the best of a bad job, and to make it mean to others what I saw one day in a second in a wildlife park in the lake district.

I sent it in to The Observer weekly competition. It was published the following sunday.

It was not well executed shot: I had not got the hang at all of using my then new toy, a semi-automatic Nikon. One day, many years after taking the photograph, I overcame my rejection of the shot, because it was a poorly exposed photograph, made a few prints at photography night class and cropped with a vengence. I sent an A4 photo with a neatly cut out of a sheet of A4 showing the crop, and was gratified to see they accepted the crop exactly.

The photograph was taken very quickly.  As they are.  I think I remember the deer approaching people, or at least not running away, and was drawn to the situation. With a Nikkormat there was control over shutter speed and aperture, but they were linked (as they are…) through the light meter. If you chose the speed route for shake (no slower thatn 1/60th.), aperture was then set by middling the light meter needle; if aperture was set (do you want depth of field or not?), the speed in its turn was fixed by metering. And, yes, you had to focus manually.

I am trying to re-imagine what I would have done: speed or aperture.  I guess speed. A professional can tell which I chose from the photograph: it should be possible to work it out now. The background is over exposed and out of focus. The smaller the f-stop number, the bigger the aperture. I might have known enough to set the focus to infinity for maximum depth of field, but because I didn’t know all the permutations at that stage, I probably relied on what in a digital camera at the press of a button sets shutter priority, hoping for the best. It was a very bright day but the two figures were under a tree, in shade. A no-win situation, as they say. You focus on figures 15 feet away and you get a bleached background.

I had wanted that arm round the deer at any price (I wondered later, looking at the image many times, if the deer did a little side line in posing with all the children…) so the technical element went out of the door. However, the people assessing the cropped A4 size photograph I sent in must have accepted it was “all in the eyes”,  like I had done, and were prepared to publish a poor shot for the sake of the greater art, so to speak.

When the girl suddenly put her arm round her new deer friend (I can’t help think she is a she), I saw the photograph and what I thought it meant before I pressed the button. This is sort of decoupage. A detailed ‘pre-planning’ of the result in three seconds rather than hours slaving over a timed script.

The conviction I had the photo right when I took it was confirmed a decade later when it was published so quickly: exciting, shocking and vindicating.

The shot of Cromer Pier was also a disaster. Couldn’t improve it with printing. I knew next to nothing of taking photographs with a fancy camera or developing and printing.

It seemed, from the numbers passing up and down the front, every professional and amateur in the area had honed in, as if by telepathy, on Cromer in atrocious weather on that particular November day. I was the unlucky sod who was duped into standing in a foreground shot for a professional: as I did so, a massive wave rose up, curled over the concrete rolled lip of the sea wall, and dumped itself on me and my precious Nikon, which I frantically swathed in kitchen roll to get the worst of the salt water off. Years later I had to have the internal mech. de-rusted. The water marks on my pier photo show I had already taken it before he got me to do his biding. After its soaking, I did not feel very confident to try winding the film on any further. I wonder who he was and what his photographs were like. And if he deliberately tried to ruin my camera, or really did need a foreground subject. Let me know if you are he and reading this.

In my mind that day, I was taking photographs like these by Richard Trim.

Today, with digital editing, an artistic smudge does wonders:


April 1, 2009 Posted by | blog name change, cinematography, cognitive illusion, culture, film editing, film [its techniques], photography | | Leave a comment


This page, which is not the homepage, has the represented artisists, in which there is a mass of wonderful photographs.

March 28, 2009 Posted by | photography | Leave a comment

PHOTOGRAPHY typology {1}

Typology is the study of types, and a photographic typology is a suite of images or related forms, shot in a consistent, repetitive manner; to be fully understood, the images must be viewed as a complete series.

Kristine McKenna, “Photo Visions”, Los Angeles Times, 29 Dec 1991.

While there are many great bodies of work employing this method, there is also a lot of crap. Let’s be honest, for people who have no real conceptual thinking in their work, the typology can become an easy trick. It gives work the illusion of cohesion and intellectual rigor.

Cara Philips in her blog Ground Glass : Typology [12 May 2008]

Visual Consumption By Jonathan E. Schroeder page 56 {GoogleBook}


If you can’t quite read the snip above, use CNTRL + roll mouse wheel

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)  : Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature)

Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography      page 1546

Tate Magazine  Issue 1 :
The Long Look: Michael Collins on Bernd and Hilla Becher

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Interview with Bernd and Hilla Becher (2002)

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Bernd and Hilla Becher, photography, typology | , , | Leave a comment

Photography essays x 3 : Camera and Consciousness by Manisha Verma + Seeing Eye to Eye by William T. Vollmann + From Daguerreotype to Photoshop by Craig Lambert

From    3 Quarks
Camera and Consciousness


Manisha Verma

in 3 Quarks

Seeing Eye to Eye

Because it’s the product of three independent parties – the photographer, camera, subject -the photograph cannot be owned, idded it can affect us in ways the photographer might never have seen or desired.

in  BookForum

From Wood s Lot

From Daguerreotype to Photoshop

Craig A. Lambert in Harvard Magazine discusses thought of academic Robin Kelsey.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | photography | Leave a comment

A Picture You Already Know

A Picture You Already Know is an essay on photography by Sze Tsung Leong

September 2, 2008 Posted by | photography | | Leave a comment

The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn {2)

The next episode of The Great War in colour: The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn, Europe After the Fire, was on BBC last night. The iPlayer is available for 6 days from today, so hurry! hurry! folks while stocks last! {Just learnt iPlayer only works inside the UK, sorry.}

The BBC info page on Albert Kahn has four links including:

(1) Article in NYT A Philosophy in Bloom, by Jacqueline McGrath, March 30, 1997, describes a visit to the Albert Kahn Museum {Musée Départemental Albert Kahn } in Paris and gives info on the man himself.

(2) An essay, Les Archives de la Planète: A cinematographic atlas by Teresa Castro

Another site:

World War I Color Photos
Not clear if these are part of the Kahn Archive.


An expert in the BBC documentary: if all the war dead marched four-abreast past the Cenotaph in London it would take three and a half days.

The thousands of war memorials built after the war which, together with the vast cemeteries, will have been driven past – backwards and forwards as the Second World War progressed – two decades later later by the allied and German forces.

February 5, 2008 Posted by | Albert Kahn, autochrome, film [its techniques], photography | , , , | Leave a comment

The Great War in Colour: Albert Kahn Archive

The Great War in Colour: The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn

is a great programme, which part is part a series. {2}

For those outside the UK, this can only be watched BBC iPlayer for a while, though if you download with the BBC download software (which you first have to download), you have a month.

February 2, 2008 Posted by | photography, World War I | , , , | Leave a comment