We watched several movies during this lecture. The first one was Photo Wallahs from 1991 shot by David MacDougall and his wife Judith. This one hour colour film discovers photography in a special part of India, Mussoorie, where photography thrived since the 19th century, and where princes and lords came to have their pictures taken. However, the shine of the place have faded and now dozens of photographers struggle to stay alive by taking pictures of Indian tourists.
Even though there's this aspect of the film, the movie's main focus is not the struggle of the photographers but the meaning and the use of photography in India in the end of the 1980s. The most interesting thing for me in the film was the fact that how old-fashioned photography lives side by side with modern colour photography. Even though the time has passed and the modern techniques were completely available for anyone many photographers stick to their old machines, and when I say old I mean stone age really, to take portraits of people or family pictures in a very static and old-fashioned way. On the other hand the new techniques creep in and photographers, struggling to keep afloat, take pictures of tourists in costumes with more modern colour cameras.
The whole film was revolving around these clashes between old and new techniques and the opinions of people from very varied social backgrounds; from the poor to the rich British colonial lady who had been left behind by the collapsing great British Empire.
The other thing that the photographers seemed to agree about was that photography used to be an art form but not anymore. Most of them had this nostalgia for the old times when there were only black and white pictures taken by old beautiful cameras. Nowadays however photography is not special anymore, anyone can do it and develop it almost in minutes. Hence, most of the older photographers were kind of mooning over the death of real photography that was an art form. This approach is very interesting because it assumes that modern photography is meaningless almost, however I cannot subscribe to this point of view. It is definitely true that pictures taken by tourists on their fully automatic digital cameras are far from being art, but just because a photo is colour and was developed rapidly doesn't make it less art than an old-fashioned B + W picture.
The second video that we watched was a short film by Joris Ivens, The Bridge, from 1928.
The last piece was a fairly annoying Amercian propaganda film by Ivens, called the Power of the Land. It was very socialistic and propagandistic. The life of the farmer family without electricity and the hardships could have come through much better with a different approach, especially without the very very annoying narrator.
It worked with social cliches, the farmer works to serve and feed the nation not to feed his own family, the good state comes to give back etc. It was very 'in your face' and boldly aggressive.