Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The victorian Laptop - Ode to the type writer

The type writer's last rights - a device of the analogue age. A laptop which did not use electricity and had no luminance screen.  A device that required 15lb/in of power to work. Thud!

And with it, the curt swipe of the paper, with the unfinished sentence.
The waste-bin in the corner strewn with scrumpled papers that didn't make it in.
The illusion of being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the plastic B-ball mount - Lakers rule!
The stuck "w" which you always had to pull up.
The "A" whose label had all but disappeared. Which key again?
The ribbon that annoyingly became a twister in the spool.
An aesthetic impulse where an idea lingered that much longer before it was pounded on paper.
Films that were defined by it as prop and part actor: All the President's Men, The Shining and a host of Noir.
The thunderous sfx of its keys guaranteed to have the neighbours banging on your wall at 3 a.m in the morning as you fought writers' block.
And the literally "medium cool' effect it had on friends of the aspiring screen writer.
Happy retirement

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

48 hours in Cairo - Art, Journalism & Reflections Tahrir Square

Click to Enlarge - a POV of Tahrir and some landmarks

48 hours later in Cairo and I'm back in London marking masters papers and prepping my own phenomenology of personal cinema. More on that later.

On occasions things can get a little bit hectic this end. Last week was one such time. A client had asked if I could present in Cairo some new ideas surrounding communications and video.

Three days earlier I had presented something to executives at the BBC. The response was very warm. Thank you to all for your feedback and email ( below)

In Cairo, we flew out Monday at 5pm to present at 11 the next morning and then catch the 5pm plane back to London, except the client very kindly put my flight back by a day.

Thanks to the assistance of former vjs and trainees, now firm friends, we set out to make a reflective piece about around legacy art reflecting Jan 25th and Tahrir Square. I have put a 1 minute trailer on

Friends Salma and Ahmed helped me speak to some extraordinary people that include:
  • A medical doctor who was exhibiting his extraordinary Dream- realism pieces
  • Sarrah, (@sarrahsworld) a remarkable social networker and activist followed by among others Bianca Jagger
  • And a group of artists marking a government building with Jan 25th slogans, just by Tahrir square.
In conversation with Salma as art snakes on in the background

And yes, the police looked on. I was shooting film and unlike the last time in December where I had a plain clothes policeman all over me, now nothing.

My plan for the piece, shot on a 5D is to project it onto a whitewalls wall after I super 8mm it and run it off a reel, hopefully to house somewhere at the Southbank Centre. It's called "Reflections" and I just was so deeply fascinated with what I heard.

They ranged from one reflector ( I won't give names till I have finished the piece) who says her parents now consult her for her opinion.

An artist who had no idea her strongest calling would be to exhibit and share in Tahrir and one who watching things unfold in the US packed his bags to come over to ensure what he was witnessing was real.

Some gigs coming up though nothing confirmed. I'm back in Dublin in July. I might be at the Sheffield Docs and then looking at something in Ghana.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Photography mourns

Where to start!
I had in mind to share events over the last two days shooting a reflective piece in Tahrir Square with friend Salma, a local TV Journalist and Ahmed, a videojournalist. Last time I was in Cairo, we got stopped by plain clothes police. Not this time.
Or even explaining some more thoughts about discombobulating videojournalism.
But that's all irrelevant in light of the news of two photojos killed Brit Tim Hetherington, and American Chris Hondros, in Misrata. Two other photojos, Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown, escaped serious injury.
I knew none of the aforementioned, but Tim is someone who's work I and thousand others deeply admired. Having worked in hotspots myself e.g. South Africa, Ghana and known personally other photojos such as Yannis Kontos, you build a healthy respect people like Tim.
He spent many years working in West Africa documenting conflict. I mean, that's a huge feat. Having experienced a couple of coups myself in Ghana I had revere respect for him.
It's a reminder, as if we ever forget that there are some people who seek out the truth; they're not reckless and value life. They keep us in touch with this conflicted world from the comforts of our suburban homes.
In 2008 Hetherington wrote a piece that I tore out from the British Journal of Photography in which he mounted a robust defence of the image in visual journalism.
I'm reading it again By any means necessary
Photography et al mourns.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Philosophy of Videojournalism

If somethings not done yet it’s waiting to be done.

If the idea you have isn’t recognised, because it’s not been done before, you might be onto something.

If you seek professional mischief making over popularity, you represent something.

If the task at hand represents an embodied experience, in which you wrestle with subjectivity and objectivity, aesthetics (kantian) versus aesthetic (corporeal), you represent something.

If your representation, is questioned and you’re prepared to listen, you represent something.
If you move with your camera as a haptic device and your words envelop poeticism, you’re saying something.

But often the question is who’s listening?

Something’s happening. We seek doors to enter in believing adventure is on the other side. And you are helping to shape that key for others.

Your audience is committed, ambivalent or not interested. You cannot bask in the glory of finalities. Because there are none.

Each task begets another and another. The only thing fulfilling is to be unfulfilled. But that’s what you love — the chase!

If your glass is never empty, but you know how, and choose whether you want it filled, you’re onto something.

If the road less travelled, is the road you’ve taken, then often you’ll find the solo traveller awaiting you. Here you’ll share ideas that pass by the mass consensual dogma.

To you there are no masses. There is no mass media. The media delimits the message. Your message is unbridled. Meta. But your path is your own.

If you believe it so much, and the air is dark, and the naysayers make their point. Listen, but excuse yourself, because you’re onto something.

Shhh (quietly) I believe you represent something. BIG!

Developing a heurestic for videojournalism
David Dunkley Gyimah
PhD SMARTlab, University College Dublin
Artist in Residence at London's SouthBank Centre
Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster
Royal Television Society Juror, 2011-12 Innovation in Media
10th - April - 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

Danfung Dennis' Media Revolution for Film makers and Videojournalists

My Freedom Or Death - Condition ONE Beta from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

Award winning Photojournalist Patrick Chauvel in Libya road test's Award winning filmmaker/photojo Danfung's Condition ONE app out mid 2011

He's done it!

The IPad, a portable screen on the cusp of being a haptic device and a 3D viewing technology which yields  a panoramic remmersion vision - touch the screen and you roll the field of view around.

The result is something that fuses game culture in news' paradigm. Danfung Dennis, a photojournalist and now celebrated documentary making with his apocalyptic "Hell and Back Again", has turned the axis of film making quite literally through a revolutionary phase shift.

John T Caldwell, an eminent media scholar coined the phrase "second shift aesthetic" to define an interconnected relationship between offline and online media. If he would allow me to, this constitutes a "phase-shift aesthetic"; 3rd, 4th...

Similarly my thoughts go to "Yellow Bird" a filming revolution, which provides 360 vision.

Revolution in film making
In the early last century French film maker Abel Gance, did something revolutionary in the use of camera mobility. He wanted to make "actors out of the audience", so he found a revolutionary way then to use a boxed camera that you needed to crank to work.

It was the Debrie Parvo, an unwieldy beast that in scenes of his seminal film Napolean, explained by Film Historian Kevin Brownlow, inflects a "being there"perception.

Depending on which generation you are we've come to marvel at immersion/remmersion and the POV. It's what binds the Gaming Industry. It is the revisioning of that gold- at-the-end-of-the-rainbow "reality".

We see it in Avante Garde films, Westerns, Hollywood flicks like, The Lady in the Lake(1947) and more recently in video  Dan Chung's Mongolian Racer (2010). One of my favourites is Point of View a short film by Doug Smith

Being there is part of the quality that the great French philosopher Roland Barthes explained so comprehensively in his Rhetoric of the Image.

Newer Media (Video Journalism) Break throughs
A hundred years on, the scope of media technological advances are to numerous to note, but breakthroughs in miniaturisation, Canon's filmic mode, 3D viewing and the zeitgeist of the tablet in the Ipad are key to what Danfung has now achieved.

Pulling it all together, one prefigures though was no easy task. Often it's a big itch that comes from working in a field long enough to see its flaws and weaknesses.  Just ask Garret Brown, a cinematographer who invented the Brown-Cam, that would be renamed the Steadicam.

The article A New Way to Photograph War on Time Magazine we can be assured will be one of a plethora of pieces. There we learn that celebrated Photojournalist Patrick Chauvel in Libya is road testing Danfung's Condition One, claiming:

"It's not easy to use, you have to watch not to get your shoes in the frame of your shadow or your face... But the result is worth it".

The film maker himself quote here from  Film maker magazine sums up everything:

"This disconnect between the realities on the ground and the perception at home shaped the course of the film ( To Hell and Back). By using advanced technology, I hoped to create a powerful experience that would shake people from their indifference to war"

Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Dangfung in a detailed conversation for research I'm conducting as part of a study and for the SouthBank Centre and for a revisit to Apple Store presentation below ( Youtube Link here)

 He mooted the idea, but what's emerged is truly deserving. Having reworked war-doc making, he's now fashioned an app which will have ramifications far beyond Wars film making.

This June I'll be appearing at the Sheffield Doc festival in a panel as follows, where I'll be contributing to a discussion on cinema journalism. I'll also be previewing my latest IMVJ project Tahrir Memento

Moderator: Charlotte Cook

Participants: Tom HappoldDanfung DennisDavid Dunkley GyimahInigo Gilmore



Former BBC and Channel 4 News journalist David Dunkley Gyimah is the recipient of a number of awards in innovative journalism. His worked in the journalism since 1987 and is presently a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster, PhD Candidate at SMARTlab, University College Dublin and Artist in Residence at London's cultural hub, The Southbank Centre.

Monday, April 04, 2011

New Wave War Movie docu-cinemmaker

The Hurt Locker

One is a film, which was lauded at the Oscars winning its director the highest fictional film accolade. The others are documentaries by film makers, two of whom are photojournalists.

Reality is, or has been a key feature of documentary film making. How do you capture unmediated that which would have happened without unintentional influence.

Yet our literacy towards reality plays out in a strong theme we've grown up on: Cinema. Ever seince DW Griffith fashioned an understanding of how to capture re-enacted scenes of war on camera.

No more. Yet watching these new doc-uramas I'm struck not just by the visceral hacceity of the films, but the thought of the mortality of the film makers. Given a canon 5d who, how many would dare to enter a conflict zone knowing this could be it?

It's an unspoken issue. But it's a real one. THese film makers do something admirable because they risk their own lives.

And there have been countless examples when things did not emerge as they would wish.

Many years ago, living in Ghana, a coup enveloped the country. Rawlings took power in a bloody over throw of the regime. I was there, remember it well as friends and I got caught up in the cross fire as cadets.

Years later it fuelled a desire to record conflict. In 1993 in South Africa I took a night drive - just one day only - into what was then the murder capital of the world. Many things happened, but the signing of a document absolving the Peace Corps of any responsibiliy, brought it home.

These film makers live through that thought for lengthy periods. Sobering thoughts.


The latest award winning film which shows the viscerality of war


Photojournnalist Tim Hetherington's award winning documentary

Hell and Back Again

Photojournalist Danfung Dennis' award winning documentary


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Lost and found in translation

Sunday morning. 930.

My task this morning is to review pages from my thesis. Chapter 1.

Blimey it's 30,000 words and only needs 10, 000 at most.  So I'm taking a large blade to the passages.

In so doing, I'm having to bridge sentences to link rather harsh edits. This makes me reflect some more and sometimes contradict what I already have.

In effect, the writing process is taking me through a series of "Inceptions"- the film. Reflection, through reflection, through reflection. Sometimes I don't know what state I'm in. As one door opens, that path leads to ever more fascinating and problematic areas which require new connections.

Sometimes these exist, sometimes they require new engineering; cue the library. In this case the first chapter has all it wants, the journey has become a metaphysical one. How do you know what you know?

And how can you teach that in a manner which instills critical thinking on the party receiving it.

In effect then this, what could be described as a rather tedious practice is all about self evaluation through enquiry in a chosen field. There's no eureka moment here. Just because it's being stated the first time and in print doesn't mean it's not he first time one has thought or recited it.

But something did make me sit bolt upright. Our penchant for the image, the moving image e.g image versus text, moving against print has been recycled over many centuries. We, myself too, might revel in the exactitude of the moving image, but for how long before the beautiful word makes a come back?

But more importantly, that is, that grand narratives are perilous. They reveal truths and mask flaws - often through a deficiency in knowledge. Enlightenment- industrial - electronic - Internet.

Our birth place in any one of these supplies us with want we want before some brilliant sage reveal patterns, flows that can be ascertained and corrected by arthroscopic surgery. Here comes Everyone, We Media, etc.

And on that note I'll return to my text. Now where am I again?

Friday, April 01, 2011

The credo of Cinematic space and silence for video

Two very different videos; one a true event, the other fiction. but the cinematicness overlap.

Kubrick was the director par excellence and this sculpted this scene in camera (spatiality), sound, scene ( luminosity) subject combine to reach into that place where demons lurk - the sub conscious.

David Couzins, the train passenger who took this video from London Undergrounds 7/7 terrorist attack, couldn't have known, or perhaps he did, but what emerges from his camera is Kubriesque. 

I apologise of I have offended any Kubrik fans and I in no way seek to diminish the events of 911 by comparing it to a film.

But the point, whether by default or design is how the mesmeric effect of Couzin's video, the context, solemnity, are housed in the world of cinema ( spatial immersion).

Without denigrating the professional, if you were to emerge from a scene marked by tragedy, how forceful would be the need to speak over and to the camera. I figure I might be sorely driven to enunciate and capture the ambience. The two indeed might have worked, but......

Perhaps a mark of respect or the sheer ocassion in itself yielded what you see, but if anything this video and its psychosis points to something we could all pay attention to; the power of silence.

It is journalism, that can't be taught because it negates what we need to learn about providing information. Couzin's non-professional training, or not has produced something we return to in capturing the moment and not just physically.  And silence has a currency in other more recognisable areas.

A nod to videojournalismweb for sparking this post

Meta data video and videojournalism cult of talent

Yannis Kontos - World Press Photographer and Greece Icon
Been having a whale of a time with some practical and theory work; just when I thought it time I'd like to go back on the road and share ideas, work with groups, a couple of projects have cropped up.

One of the precursors was reliving some work from 1991-94 to illustrate to a group terminology thought to be from a web 2.0 age which was just as in vogue in 1992 e.g. Metadata and camera movement c.f DSLR shooting

Image stream one below from the BBC's flagship programme: REPORTAGE  shows how metadata was used pre-internet sans the reporters voice. That is it was used on the music arc.  More importantly too this was the era of MTV current affairs, a video journalism (directors often shot on hi8 or drop in shots) that  would appeal to Netizens.

This was one of the programmes I cut my teeth on after 4 years before focusing on that theatre of the mind - radio.

Image stream one - the BBC's 1992 national flagship programme which pioneered its own form of videojournalism in so far as directors shot drop-in shots for this network programme

In photography, I went into my recent archives and pulled out a two hour face-to-face interview I had with Danfung Dennis - who is the ONE at the moment, with his Dante - award winning movie To Hell and Back.

Danfung like World Press Photographer Yannis Kontos  remind us of the image and non-conformity towards artistic practice. I have been using a technique I call reflexive-flaneurism- mapping, and what's obvious is in spite of all the codes, loosening of semiotics, genius or at least talent, something ( I don't know, call it what you will e.g. Dasein) something is difficult to grasp.

Besides the physicalness of being in that place and time, the essence of good visual making; there is the continuing invested self-resources, and then the Dasein.

This isn't new, but in the leveling of creativity, where the lack of books, knowledge, opportunities was once the norm, we can comfort ourselves that there is this other thing - a bit transcendental.

Where one group sees a formula for method and exhibit that modernist formalist bent; it's all in the form, others see each new task as an artistic odyssey replete with the torpid, sleepless, brain-thumping thoughts it induces, or not.

That's not to suggest training and pedagogy have no value, otherwise what's the point.

A student today hit the wall. He looked fairly relieved when I said the internal fight he was having with himself was part of the route to discovery. History is littered with tortured souls. We've come to realise though that there is genuine talent, that finds its way irrespective.

Kazuo Ishiguro was talking about his time at University of East Anglia's creative writing course. For a whole year there was no module, but the ocassional meet in the pub and talks with his lecturer Malcolm Bradbury about writing. Bradbury would later say, those who wanted to write, wrote.

I'm hoping to convene our next meeting at the BFI with the David Hayward from the BBC and Paul Egglestone from UCLAN, where we can exchange more data