Monday, February 12, 2007

Errol Morris and Photography

I just learned from Paul Schmelzer that Errol Morris is tackling the photographs of Abu Ghraib in his next film. I am a HUGE fan of Morris's films and was pleased as pie when I first moved here to learn that he lived in my fair city of Cambridge, MA. (Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control is one of my absolute fav flicks.)

Taking a peak at Morris's website revealed this excellent cartoon seen below by Brandy Agerbeck. (Apparently, it is technically a "graphic facilitation" as it states on the site. Here is his definition of this curious term: "large scale images created in real-time in front of a client group while they are working and conversing.") Morris spoke at the 2006 Chicago Humanities Festival and Agerbeck provides an excellent verbal and visual account of Morris's presentation on the photographs of war:

Morris introduced us to his latest project about the Abu Ghraib, and the iconic images created from the prisoner torture. It's his hypothesis that it's a handful of those photos from that we'll remember a hundred years from now about the Iraq War. He explained that this project began with the mystery of two photos by Roger Fenton described by Susan Sontag in her book, Regarding the Pain of Others. During the Crimean War, Fenton took photos of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Two are of the same road, one with cannonballs littering the road, one with the cannonballs in the ravine. The Mystery being which photo was taken first, which was staged?

Morris's presentation mostly talked about that idea of the iconic photograph. What can we learn from them? To what extent are they posed or performance? An interesting aspect about the Abu Ghraib project is that Morris has the opportunity to interview the photographers. We have an opportunity for more context than just the images themselves.

Click on the image for a larger version. "Graphic Facilitation" by Brandy Agerbeck, From


Roark Johnson said...

I was lucky enough to be at The Humanities Festival. I was blown away by "Thin Blue Line" and the hyper real "performances" the people he interviewed gave. He explained his methods, a teleprompter with his face projected on it for the interviewee to look at. He alluded to being addicted to these intense interviews, one of which lasted over 24 hours at which point he started hallucinating. I always chuckle when I think of what he said next, "When the going gets fucked, the fucked up get going".

LKB said...

Wow! A great story, thanks for sharing. I would love to hear him in person. Although I live in his hometown of Cambridge now, I think he rarely speaks around here.

I enjoyed your project and will add it to my blog links! (Do I also need to cross post this to yours so you see it? I'm still new to this.)

Cowboy Collaborative said...

I'll have to check out some of his other films. I have only seen VERNON, FLORIDA by Morris. It was a good one. HOME MOVIE by Chris Smith was an interesting documentary featuring some very unusual homes. And I don't what took me so long but I've finally been introduced to the Maysles brothers' documentaries because the Dryden did a Maysles film series recently. -jcl

LKB said...

I haven't seen Vernon, FL. You would love Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control if you liked Home Movie (I HM too).

I just can't get enough of documentaries. They are actually my preferred movie and book genre. I've never heard of those brothers, any recs?

- lkb