IS VR DEMOCRATIC? an essay by John Tinnell who argues that we should be skeptical of any technology that short-circuits our capacity to be critical.


Reflection on Hito Steyerl’s In Defense of the Poor Image

In China, piracy is very rampant due to the incomplete network supervision. Although the government has been hoping to control by regulatory, poor images are still out of control due to the needs of netizens. I was imagining that with the development of technology and information resources, the future network society will be highly refined and the resolution of video resources will be infinitely high. People can easily enjoy the same space experience and audiovisual enjoyment as the cinema, by AR or VR technology (In fact, the AR/VR technology at present has been very close to it)

This kind of flourishing age of internet not only fulfills the original ambitions of militant and (some) essayistic and experimental cinema – to create an alternative economy of images, but also satisfies people’s fetish of high resolution. At same time, it will also push the image art to a new peak – the communist network art age (I don’t know what it is, just saying)

Reflection on William Gibson and Andre Bazin’s Posts on Chris Marker

I found it difficult to truly envision what William Gibson and Andre Bazin were describing when they spoke of Chris Marker’s work. I wonder if I’ll decipher some of the meaning of their words when we watch La Jetee.

I looked up the writers of the posts to understand a little more about their perspectives on the pieces. William Gibson is a writer, well-known for his science fiction writing in the subgenre cyberpunk. I’m not sure how much writing he had done by the time he had seen La Jetee, but even he was in awe of the film. Do you think it was so impactful and defining because of that time period? He didn’t describe what exactly made him feel the way he did, so I’m interested in seeing how the film will impact me. Of course this will be very different than the HD, CGI movies we see today, but I wonder if it will be as thought-provoking since we live in a more high-tech society with a greater range of possibilities… or maybe they’re just different possibilities.

I read the Andre Bazin post after the Gibson one, so that helped give some insight into how Marker structures some of his films. Although he didn’t talk about La Jetee in particular, since he was no longer alive at the time, this was helpful context into understanding why Gibson may have felt the way he did. Marker’s films seem very thought provoking, especially when thinking about point of view and perspective. His style seems unique. Was his filmmaking style adopted more widely after his films came out? Why or why not? Or rather, why do you think it would or wouldn’t be more widely adopted as film style?

Reflection on Allan Sekula’s “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning

I think Allan Serula’s paper discusses similar ideas as to what I considered when reading “Performing Civic Identity”. The esthetic and metaphorical component of photography, as well as the real and transparent component of photography have to be considered. Are there ever situations where one side should be more heavily weighed than the other?

I wonder if photographers tend to struggle with the portrayal of their images. It’s difficult to expect a viewer or reader to know or look up the context of the image or what the author’s intent was. This reminds me a lot of going to museums, especially those with a lot of artifacts. The descriptions tend to be very limited and describe the object and not a story. This is a stark difference to if you were to go on a tour, and could understand the value behind different objects and why they were created, which makes for a much more engaging experience. Even when the photographer does leave a space for their commentary and descriptions, people may not even read it. Furthermore, how do photographers or artists navigate cultural influences and biases, especially when trying to create a truthful image?

Reflection on Hariman and Lucaites’ “Performing Civic Identity: The Iconic Photograph of the Flag Raising on Iwo Jima”

I thought this chapter was intriguing and educational for me, in that I’ve never had to analyze an art piece in depth before, if at all. The author connected details in the photos to ideologies that I most likely would not have noticed. For example, when the author described the anonymity of the soldiers and how this helps citizens empathize with the photo, portraying egalitarianism. I was also shocked at the number of ways the Iwa Jima photograph has been altered and the number of contexts it has fit into. Although, it isn’t surprising that with a changing society, that such a famous and renowned image could also change with the current political and cultural states.

The chapter made me think about what’s important in a photograph. How much does context matter? How much can it alter one’s opinions? Would the Iwo Jima photograph be viewed differently if it were confirmed that it had been staged? If I were to guess, I don’t think it would be as famous of a photo. On the one hand, people value context. People don’t just care about outcomes, they also care about the change and the journey to get somewhere. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just about the feelings invoked, especially with something like a photograph where you may not necessarily be given the context. If the emotions invoked are real, and perhaps even nostalgic, is that all that matters? For example, in the book, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, he writes stories that aren’t always factual, but says the feelings they raise are real, and may not be achieved with a completely real retelling of his past.

Reflection on Walter Benjamin’s “A Short History of Photography”

It was interesting learning about the history of photography. I thought it was an interesting concept of how photography is an intersection between technology and art, and that this was part of the reason for initial dismissal of cameras. I have always viewed photography as both an artistic and informative form of media, so I’ve never stepped back to think how different it is than other more traditional forms of art, such as painting or drawing.

It’s interesting to see the progression of capturing a moment in time. One of the earliest methods was to draw, then to paint, then to photograph. How do you think capturing moments will continue to evolve? Even now we see technology that allows 360˚ photos, panoramas, and “live” photos. How do you think editing software and tools has affected photography, both artistically and as a reporting/documentation tool?

            Furthermore I was intrigued by the different creative approaches photographers had to take when taking photos didn’t take fractions of a second. Even with film camera I feel like there in some sense has to be more intent and purpose when taking a photo. Nowadays we can take images so quickly you don’t necessarily have to think about composition before taking a photo. You could simply snap away or “burst” until you were satisfied. At the same time, phone cameras ensure that you almost never miss a moment you want to capture and apps such as Instagram have allowed people to share their work quickly and easily.

Reflection on La Jetee and Sans Soleil

La Jetee was one of the most powerful films I’ve ever watched. Even though its runtime was less than half an hour, it was enough to keep me engaged the entire time, leaving me with a haunting feeling at the end. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the way the film was shot, as I think the photo-montage made the film feel a little more real, despite the fact that it is less lifelike than video. I think this is partially due to the nature of photography in today’s society – photographs are generally assumed to be truth, in contrast to films, which are generally assumed to be fiction.

Sans soleil was less engaging, primarily because it was much more disjointed in nature, and was probably too intellectually demanding for how tired I was at the time. I do remember it being shot well, and I’d love to rewatch it at a time when I’m more alert and better equipped to process it.

Reflection on Chris Marker ‘La Jetee’ responses


I’m excited to watch La Jetee because of how Gibson and Bazin set it up to be an essay film that almost transcends its form. I am a fan of Agnes Varda’s essay film, The Gleaners and I, but have not had the opportunity to watch more French New Wave films in this tradition. I wonder if La Jetee is similar.

Bazin emphasizes Marker’s technique in his deployment of of non-documentary images.  He praises the dialectic nature of the film, given that images from various contexts are shown, alluding to various coexisting realities. Moreover, they are placed in an order that follows what is said, as opposed to the image before it, and to Bazin, using images that follow the verbal logic is more “intelligent”.

I like essay films with a narrative structure that proposes more questions rather than answers. And I think the relationship with text and image is most intriguing to me when both do what the other is unable to do to tell varied sides of a story, and it seems from Bazin’s description that Marker is able to do just that.

Gibson’s way of talking about the experience of watching a film as an experience surviving only as memory is intriguing — I wonder how one’s impression of a film is impacted by how accessible and reproducible it is. It made me think of Walter Benjamin’s discussion of photography in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction and how value and cultural meaning are altered profoundly with ease of access, especially as propelled by market forces.

My questions for the class are:

  • What is lost when images follow text, as opposed to the other way around?
  • What is the value of an essay film versus a documentary today? One leads to more questions than answers, but we live in a society obsessed with finding answers.
  • How much guidance do you as a photographer give to your audiences to help them read your work?  Why?



Thoughts on Gibson’s and Bazin’s Comments

Without actually viewing La Jetee, it was difficult to appreciate William Gibson’s comments. His writing has, however, set my expectations high for the film, and I very much look forward to viewing it in class. I do wonder how much of the films impact was due to the fact that he was only able to view it once at that time – might subsequent screenings within a short period of time have diminished the intensity of the film?

Andres Bazin’s thoughts on Chris Marker (in particular his documentary Letter from Siberia), on the other hand, were more relevant even without viewing Marker’s works. From what he wrote, it appears that in Letter from Siberia, Marker took a non-traditional route of making the subject the film itself, and used other forms of media to support the essence of the documentary. Bazin emphasizes how “intelligence” plays a large role in Marker’s film. Without a better understanding of his use of the word, I can only postulate that the film would be best appreciated with a greater understanding of the history and biography of the filmmaker, along with the temporal and environmental context of the documentary.


Questions for the class:

  • Do you ever re-watch a film immediately after your first viewing? How do subsequent viewings after your enjoyment of the film?
  • Describe the way you watch a new movie. Does this change for different genres of films?

Reflection on readings 03/06

Says Darke, “Marker was constantly exploring the relationship between word and image, page and screen”. His films give me the greatest feeling is that images and video are deceptive. Editing, sound and text are carefully planned scams by Chris Marker. In Letter from Siberia, I saw a lot of use of montage, but they all conveyed the same meaning through background sounds. Marker forced neutral elements such as bus and workers into a value-oriented image through different subjective narratives. However, even the so-called objective description is still subjective. Like Sakula’s point of view, all documentary photography has a kind of tendency. Marker has clearly come to the realization that words offer power to images.

In La Jetee, a large number of applications of the image, it seems, subvert the basic rules of movement and perception. Under the director’s control, the view of the audience is determined by a series of optical photography images. The audience’s thoughts were repeatedly rotated by the voiceover, the space was dissipated, and the time was interrupted. Just as the protagonist recalled a woman’s face compulsively, the audience was forced to watch the limited selection of pictures and participate in the author’s narrative logic. Chris Marx designed a paradox of memory, in this story only condensed images. Image replaced the world, one image appears and suddenly replaced by another image, the memory of time replace the real time. In fact, there is no time travel, automatic recognition system in the audience’s mind has become an accomplice of this memory paradox.