|Jorge Prelorán filming Hermógenes Cayo|
with 16mm film camera, 1960's. HSFA, SI.
The collections of the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) document the world's cultures, from the beginning of motion picture to the present. Most often, we think of these collections with regard to what is captured within the frame. We see documents of cultural, linguistic, and environmental change, older ways of life preserved for current understanding, and contemporary practices and issues recorded for future study. But all archival records tell us much more than what they might show at face value - in addition to their documentary content, they can tell us a great deal about the people who made them.
|Cameraman Ragpa Dorjee with 16mm film|
camera and microphone, c. 1980. HSFA, SI.
The exhibit explores various ways that scientists use imaging technologies in their research, including anthropologists who use moving images to document culture. A short video offers a primer on the evolution of ethnographic film, showing how anthropologists and filmmakers have used technological innovations such as synchronous sound, long-running videotape, and small, unobtrusive hand-hand cameras to record research footage.
More Than Meets the Eye is on exhibit through November 4. If you can't visit in person, take a look at these examples of changing technologies and evolving ethnographic film practices from HSFA's collections:
Yupik Eskimo Life, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, ca. 1930, by Henry Collins
Ju/'hoan Music, from Marshall !Kung Expedition IV, 1955, by John Marshall
Today's video cameras, of course, offer a small size, unobtrusive profile, many hours of uninterrupted recording on re-usable media, good performance in low light (or even nighttime) conditions, metadata such as date and time of creation, and even GPS coordinates for the location of a shoot. Who knows what future archival treasures are being recorded right now, and what those records will tell us, depending on our perspective?
Karma Foley, for the Human Studies Film Archives