Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The camera is no match for content and context

This picture is copyrighted and permission to use must be taken with its author, Ken Mallor
Discussions over camera purchases often take on the form on Zeno's paradoxes, primarily the famous Achilles and the Tortoise race.

You've heard it before but here's a prĂ©cis.

Achilles gives the tortoise a head start of a 100m before commencing his run. After a further 100m, Achilles would have caught up to the point the tortoise started, but the tortoise would have moved on say 10m.

Achilles must now proceed to catch up the 10m, but by the time he does that, the tortoise would have moved 3m. The paradox continues so that in principle, given the infinite number of times we can undertake this process, Achilles never catches up with the Tortoise.

Of course we know differently, but as a mathematically plausible statement, we believe Achilles is on for a hiding.

Cameras occupy this same paradox, mimicking the Tortoise. Content stands little chance catching up with the camera - all you need is a DSLR with a 1.2f and you're away.

But the realists know it;s the content that matters. Philosophers Noel Carroll and David Bordwell qualify this with terms for film such as "expressive" or that content shapes  the meaning - of course.

'Expressive' talks to the content of the film - the emotions. It's the content that make you feel primary emotions.

This is not to say the camera does not play its role, but a dramatic scene caught on an iphone or pinhole camera is still dramatic, where as a stodgy event filmed with different model cameras relies on aesthetics.

Content matters, as well as context. At present we're living in a character-driven video idiom; nothing wrong with that either. We need to know much more about our neighbours.

Yet content eschewing context is, I believe, is as flawed as Achilles being told he doesn't stand a chance over taking the tortoise.

So we must give credit to the new economists, the digital mediaist, the new agenda makers who are fashioning a sort of televisual experience in which our urge for aesthetic over content is being addressed head on.

In various movements around the world, over a century or so of strife, hardship has yielded new movements for the informed creating, or attempting
to create new understandings of why we're in this mess.

And if you're reading this, this, among the many blogs that talk about content,  should be the legacy for future generations, because whatever happens, Achilles should always have been the victor - and that story alone is a legacy to us.