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Friday, 3 September 2010

Lessons from Hindi Cinema for Tony Fouhse

Dawn and Kevin

 James - dead

Tony Fouhse gets confused in this blog posting, which sums up the confusion caused by the restrictive and conservative side of photography.

Okay, I'm confused, okay.

For me, photography is still about discovery.
And I don’t mean discovering how light strikes an object, or how “cool” some shape might look in a foto.
No, I’m talking about discovering how I can go out in the world,
shoot, bring it back and make it (my passage through that time
and space) make sense.
And, by “make sense” I mean a few things.
First of all, how can I interact with what’s in front of me, how can I shape the people I meet and their environment into interesting photographs? For me photography is a combination of my aesthetic and social predilections. This process is kind of like mining. I have to make sure I extract enough raw material to give me options at a later date.
Then, when I bring all those fotos, this raw material, home, the
refining process begins. I want to sift and shake and shape the
fragments that are fotos into a sequence that will somehow define that thing.
And, by “thing” I’m not referring to an actual thing. I’m referring to my passage through the time and the space that gave rise to the images in the first place.
It’s kind of like a puzzle with no one correct solution, but some
solutions are more correct than others.
Does that make any sense to you?

Add to this creative confusion the fact that I know most of the people I photograph on the corner. Some I know quite well, others I only met once or twice before they drifted away. Got straight, went to jail or took their addiction to some other corner in some other city.
Some of them die.

How’s that supposed to make me feel?
I’m as confused about this, personal, aspect of the project as I am about the creative side of it. Probably more confused. I often wonder just what the hell I’m doing down there, inserting myself into these peoples lives.

That actually sounds very un-confused to me. Instead of striving for objectivity and distance, we must embrace the chaos, confusion, the lack of rightness and wrongness. Most of all (as in Hindi Cinema - that's where the lesson kicks in), we must embrace the emotion. The emotion is everything and without it there is no content, no meaning and no point to anything we do. 

In Hollywood movies, you get people who obsess about things like the continuity errors - so in Apocalypse Now, when the Ride of the Valkyries is playing in the helicopter attack, the tape isn't moving over the tape head. But why should it. It's a made up film, a complete fiction, it's pretend and fake. In Hindi Cinema, content takes precedence over detail (especially if you go back to the 70s - much less so now). It would make no sense to talk about continuity errors - you'd be watching a film and all the time saying things like, Hold on, one minute they were in Mumbai and now all of a sudden they are dancing on a hilltop in Switzerland, and How come he's riding a camel in the desert when a second ago he was sitting on motorbike in a Gujarati village. It would be thoroughly pointless and ignore the medium which one is watching - a make-believe medium.

I think it's a little bit the same in photography, another make believe medium.We obsess about trivial little details and ignore the big picture, a picture that should have feeling, emotion, soul - because that is what life is about.

In Bollywood, a guide to popular Hindi Cinema, Anjum Rajabali explains the difference between Hollywood and Hindi films:

"Hollywood films are considered 'dry' here. That is, not enough emotions. When you Indianise a subject, you add emotions. Lots of them. Feelings like love, hate, sacrifice, of revenge, pangs of separation... Every situation has feelings, dilemmas, other kinds of conflicts, confrontations, sacrifices, moral issues coming up all the time, etc."

Screenwiter Sutanu Gupta, also discusses the difference. 

"I personally feel Indian films are much more difficult to write than Hollywood films. Hollywood films can sustain interest, or can interet their audience with one track. You can have a bomb in a bus, a girl is driving the bus, and a man has to save the busdriver and the bus passengers. That is all. That is the whole film. We can't do a film like that. I wish we could - it's so straightforward. It can be one scene in a Hindi film, like the climax. It cannot be the whole film."

I think Tony's confusion arises from the need to move beyond the one scene, to bring other emotions into the mix - something that Anglo-photography, in whatever guise, is reluctant to allow.

More on emotion in photography in relation to women photographers and their lack of coverage at Prison Photography and Peripheral Vision.



mark page said...

Allow me to be the first to welcome you back after your short break.

colin pantall said...

Thanks Mark - and I hope all is good with you in sunny Mancs!