The Responsibility of Model Making

Going into this course I was skeptical of the ability to connect the documentary process and theology. However, the separate discussions of church and how to shoot and cut video have mirrored each other in unexpected ways.

Church is a model. It is a human representation of a mystic religious experience.

This is an interesting parallel to the camera. The camera does not present us with reality. It presents us with a representation of light somehow reflected into an image… I honestly have no idea how this works but I know it is not what happened. Instead, it is a representation of that moment. Each of these models or representations is prone to human error. The camera can lie.

There is an assumption of truth with video. There is a forgetfulness that just like a piece of writing there is an author making conscious decisions about the composition, especially when it has the tagline “documentary”.

Jacob_Riis,_Lodgers_in_a_Crowded_Bayard_Street_Tenement
A famous photo from Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lived

Though we are discussing video in class this also applies to photography. An infamous series of photos, How the Other Half Lives depicts urban slums in 1890s America. When looking at these images it is easy to be preoccupied with the poverty and forget the conscious decisions made when making these photographs. The photographer of How The Other Half Lived was a police officer that purposefully created a photo series to associate fear with adult males in the slums and sorrow with the children. Though this is not unethical it is easy to forget that images are representations that can be molded.

This is similar to models of God and faith. These models are human constructions and in return can be changed and usually are adapted based on human thought, whether this is positive or negative.

Creating documentaries is a responsibility I am continuing to learn about. Whether this is learning how to use truthful trickery, editing diverse shots, or not taking quotes out of context. A large part of this is understanding the negative and positive implications of visual representations. This has been most apparent watching videos in class. It has become more and more clear conscious editing and filming decisions dictate the honesty of our models.

I hope to continue to grow in my ability to acknowledge human adaptations and models so I can better understand the difference between reality and representation in both filming and theology.

One thought on “The Responsibility of Model Making

  1. Wow Liz! This is really deep and thoughtful! I never thought about models of church as a comparison to photography. I’ll be thinking about this a lot this week. Thank you!

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