15 March: Catching Lives Abseil

In my capacity as Volunteer Coordinator and CL photographer, I was asked if I would cover the fund-raising abseil event in Maidstone.  My husband Tim had also agreed to take part so needed some moral support.  After having recently finished my previous video, this was an opportunity to film the event rather than just record through images.  The ambient sounds of the crowd of spectators I felt would be more apparent through the medium of film.

This turned out to be one of my less successful ventures but at the same time a good learning curve.  The first thing against me was the weather conditions which were cold, dull and overcast so the resulting film came out darker than I would have wished, but at the same time I felt it important to depict things as they actually were.

We were one of twenty teams taking part in the event so although I was able to gain access to the starting and finishing area at the base of the building, it was very cramped and it was difficult to film when the people were continually moving around and the organisers were mainly concerned to keep the proceedings moving along as quickly as possible.  I also realised that to do this again I need to have a shoulder rig, as to hold my heavy camera upwards to film from the top of the building was a great strain on my neck and arms.  So as a result the film is not as smooth as I had hoped to produce.

Apart from that the event raised considerable funds for the charity although I am not sure if my husband would repeat the exercise again!  The film was put on YouTube to enable Catching Lives in turn to put on the website and hopefully generate some more contributions.

22 Feb: Amendments to Storyboard

It was pointed out to me that the first storyboard I had created for the proposed video would result in a film which would be far longer than what I was expected to produce.  So this was extremely helpful as it made me step back and look closely at what I had done so far,  and to fine tune it to create a more satisfactory end result.

The final story board that I have now worked on has been reduced from 19 pages down to 9.  Of those there is one scene filmed of the river at ‘The Weavers’ in Canterbury High Street, which I am undecided at this point whether or not to include in the final video.  It maybe that it in fact detracts from the other scenes and would only serve to extend the length of the video.  However I am endeavouring to present a contrast both between those people who are begging and living rough and the general public, together with a comparison of peaceful areas within the city as opposed to the busy shopping area.

The final storyboard can be viewed by clicking on the link below:


15 Feb: Looking at the work of Terence Davies


I had previously watched Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988) some time ago, but re-watched it again, with the influence of what I have been researching recently in mind.  It is in many ways a brutal film in its subject matter, recounting a period in time very different in some respects to family life today.  Beryl Bainbridge, in her article in The Guardian 21 April 2007, states that Davies said that the film was about “memory and the mosaic of memory”.  She advises that a coral filter was used except for the red lipstick (particularly evident in the second part of the film) and it was further beached to intensify the stark reality of the past.  She adds that there are “… no interruptions in the plot or frequent shock effects but slow and penetrating recording of a past … no nostalgia, no sentimentality, no crying out for pity, just images.”

bfi%20distant%20voices%20still%20lives%20PDVD_007The techniques he has used are such things as using sound only with no human presence, such as empty stairs but with the feet and voices of the people going downstairs, slow panning of some scenes, the contrasts between sadness and happy times; and the importance of the font door linking events throughout the film.  He often starts new sound clips as a lead in to the next scene which keeps the flow of the events together.  I found the film very moving and it is visually sensitive and artistic, in both composition and the content matter depicted.

Distant_Voices_Still_Lives_1_Terence_DaviesHis following film, The Long Day Closes (1992) is a young boy’s exploration and cultivation of his interest in the cinema and is viewed as largely semi-autobiographical.  The following is a YouTube clip about aspects of the film.

Terence Davies

This still image is taken from the film.   The boy Bud is central to the film, and is depicted as a sad and lonely 11 year old who haunts the local cinema; which he uses as his main source of solace.  Like his previous film Davies uses subtle variations of light and tone and slow paying shots interspersed throughout the film.

I was intersted to watch his later film The House of Mirth (2007) to see how his work had developed in the interim period.  This is a tragic love story set in the turn of the century New York. Whilst it follows more of the ‘Hollywood’ format of a large production aimed to go on general release, there are still instances of his earlier treatments of some scenes, such as concentrating  on slow shots.

The following still image was taken from the film and it almost resembles a fine art painting such were produced by the painters of the Pre-Raphaelites.


11 Feb: Looking at the work of John Smith & Zineb Sedira

JOHN SMITH (b.1952)

Since 1972 he has made over 30 films, video and installation works and is described (by Google) as an award-winning avant garde filmmaker.  The films document and probe the immediate surroundings, looking at the everyday, such as panes of glass and the discolouration of a mouldy ceiling.   They often contain an element of humour which in turn makes the viewer look at his surroundings more closely and the everyday world.

The following image is taken from his black and white film The Girl Chewing Gum (1976).  The film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE.


This film viewed without any prior information, suggests that it is about the making of a film  as suggested by the commentary.  However within a short period, the viewer is aware that the commentary has been made after the events were filmed and recounts what was seen.  He appears to make up his own storyline as the events unfold, but these are purely circumstantial. The last 1:30 mins of the film changes from the street scene to a landscape view which does not appear to have any relationship with the former, apart from an alarm which continues throughout the entire film.

Smith talks about his work and the motivations behind his making of the 16 mm colour film The Black Tower  (1985-87), which can be seen on my video page CLICK HERE.  This image was taken from the film.


I was interested to see what he had produced in his black and white film, Worse Case Scenario (2001-2003) which has been made from 35mm stills.  It looks down on to the intersection of a busy Viennese street.  It  is black and white, with ambient sounds in some scenes such as church bells timed to coincide with a man walking.  He has created a narration through the use of the images, sometime calm and at other times dramatic.  I did wonder how the effects had been produced as there in repetition in some shots, which may be merely repeating the frames or the use of Adobe After Effects.  The following image is taken from this film.  I was unable to download o copy but it can be viewed on-line at http://www.luxonline.org.uk.


I then looked at more recent work and in particular at White Hole (2014).  This image is taken from the film.


His film Dark Light (2014) is an expanded version of White Hole and was intended for gallery exhibition as a seamless loupe.  His website (www.johnsmithfilms.com) states that, “They are a juxtaposition of image and sound to express positives and negatives, beliefs and realities, history and present, forwards and backwards … a light at the end of a tunnel.”  Perhaps that is something we are all searching for.  I found a very thought-provoking and imaginative film, with little to distract visually.


I discovered her work at Luxonline.org site which describes her photography and video work as using, “… the intimate perspective of her own experience to frame questions about the intersections of eastern and western culture and identity.”  It also states that, “The work shifts from the political to the emotional; from a sense of history to the present; from east to west and through them both.”  Born of Algerian parents she has lived in France and the UK which gives her insight into different worlds. She has worked in film and fine art pieces including sculpture and wall coverings.  Her early work included a single screen project film entitled, Don’t do to her what you did to me (1998-2001).  This image is taken from the film.


Amongst the work she has produced I looked at the following pieces.  In 2000 she produced Silent Sight, which is almost surrealist image merely of a pair of eyes, reminiscent of a woman looking through the slit of a burka.  The film is 10 minutes in length but an excerpt can be seen on my video page CLICK HERE. This image was taken from the film.


Whilst one feels on a one to one basis with the person in the film who looks directly at us, it is slightly unnerving and I personally felt that 10 minutes is too long to maintain the attention of the viewer, but perhaps she does not want the viewer to feel comfortable.

Much of her film work involves the use of multiple screen installations to be shown within a gallery setting.   Her work Lighthouse in the Sea of Time (2011) is a two-part 16:21 mins video installation involving five screens and was commissioned by Folkestone Triennial.  The film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE, and this image was taken from the film.


Her most recent film work also involves a nautical theme and is entitled Guiding Light (2013).  This is a single screen video projection of 6 mins with the addition of a boat and stand on a plinth. An excerpt can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE.  This image is a view of the installation within the MMK Museum, Frankfurt.


It shows a truck making its way along an empty road in a desert landscape.  There is a strong wind similar to a sea storm and the sounds of the engine as it makes its way towards the viewer.  There are also poetic phrase handwritten on the screen.  The website:, www.am-africa.com (Intense Art Magazine) describes the film as, “… displacement – the   migrant travelling before embarking on a perilous voyage across water to Europe.”

I found a great diversity in the work of both these filmmakers, particularly in respect of the backgrounds from which they have both come and their individual approaches to their work.  The use of multi-screen installations is particularly exciting but would be a major undertaking at my stage as a novice video maker.  The more that I look at the work of other filmmakers I realise the approach is very different to what I  have produced so far so has given me a strong starting point to work from.

10 Feb: Looking at the work of Suki Chan and Melanie Manchot

SUKI CHAN (b.1977)

Her work combines light and the moving image, with mixed media installations to explore the physical experience of space.  The TinType Gallery.com quotes her as saying that,  “The aesthetics are intended to seduce.  I want to transport the viewer to an elsewhere, one step removed from real life.”  Her work follows a similar format of slow, still either static or panned short shots, with a black fade out and ambient sounds with of the environment or the surroundings.

This short film was made in 2012

Still Point from Suki Chan on Vimeo.

This still is taken from the film


Her previous works have included Interval II (2008), Istanbul (2010) and Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk (2009), which is interesting in her use of a split two-part screen in part of the film  with related images in both.  Although there is action in both, they are linked and neither compete solely for the viewer’s attention. The following still is taken from the film.

Suki Chan sleepwalk.0009

Her latest film Obscura (2015) is one of eight newly commissioned films exploring different aspects and perspectives of a north London road, Essex Street.  This latest film can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE


She works with photography, film, video and installation and explores portraiture as part of a performative and participatory practice.  Her works have included Flesh and Blood (1997) when she took 40 images of her mother then aged 66, to refine the idea of female beauty.   In 2013 she produced a film entitled, Leap after The Great Ecstasy which depicts behind the scenes coverage of workers preparing the annual Ski Jump Cup competition at Englebert, Switzerland.  Part of the film is back and white and part colour, and comprises of short clips that blend into each other with ambient sounds and music.  It can be viewed on my video page – CLICK HERE. Her photographic influence can be seen through  the composition and framing  of the shots.

The following still image is taken the film.

Melanie ManchotLEAP-2-videostill1

In 2013 she released her Tracer.  It follows a group of 10 Apeuro Free Runners as they make their way long the course of the BUPA Great North Run.  Manchot talks about the making of this film on YouTube, and states that she was endeavouring to trace a line across the environment.  There are low scenes with no cuts and it shows the runners contact with the surfaces they encounter enroute.  There are two short clips from this film on my video page CLICK HERE.  The following image is taken from her film.

Melanie Manchot great run

In 2014 she has adopted a variation on previous work to produce a film entitled The Hall.  This black and white film follows four walkers making seperate journeys to the same destination.  Once there it becomes a group activity and the following shot was taken from the film.

Melanie Manchot The Hall6

The film explores the idea of community with individual actions being filmed in slow motion. It looks at activities that are often regarded a ordinary with no voice over.  Her website (www.melaniemanchot.net) states that the film echoes earlier documentary filmmakers such as Humphrey Jennings’ Spare Time (1939).

8 Feb: Research – Patrick Keiller

The work I have looked at so far has made me realise, that I had moved away from the idea of ‘less is more’.  I need to cut down what I have worked on so far, and slow the pace down considerably.  The importance of ambient noise adds much to the atmosphere of what one is creating, as came through very much with the work of Zarina Bhinmji and Tacita Dean.  So although I have sufficient visual material recorded at this time to make the video, I need more ambient sounds, which is something I can do with a few more visits to the High Street both when it is quieter or when it is noisy.

I have also looked at the work of the following film maker.


He began by studying  and practising architecture and later fine art, and has been making films since 1981.  His interest in building and the environment is evident within his work which adopts a documentary approach.  In 1994 he produced his first feature-length film London, which depicts a year in the life of the capital through Keiller’s protagonist, Robinson.  The Guardian interview (30 November 2012) states that it, ” … concerns itself with “the problem” of the capital … its lack of charisma and of functionality compared to other european cities and is “more concerned with tracing the city’s cultural past”.  It also adds that he was intrigued with the Surrealists’ idea of changing a city just by altering the way we look at it.  Perhaps my own video will be able to achieve some of this idea as well.  The commentary to the film is narrated by the actor Paul Schofield and a small excerpt can be viewed on my video page CLICK HERE

Screen shot 2012-06-23 at 10.12.23 PM

The following image was taken from the film.


His short film, Robinson in Space (1997) part of which can be viewed rom my video page CLICK HERE  shows wide static shots of car factories, supermarkets and container ports, often seen from a distance through fences; together with a narrative commentary and the ambient sounds within the environment.


His latest film, The View from the Train: Cities and Other Landscapes (2014) retraces the hidden history of the places where we live.

After looking at the work of other film makers, my opinion on the work comes down to personal choice as a viewer.  The earlier visual work by Keiller, whilst it seems rather dated compared with more recent work is thought provoking, and he is depicting aspects not generally looked at in detail.   I was not able to download even part of his most recent work, but it will be interesting to view this to see how his work has developed over time.

7 Feb: Research – Tacita Dean

The most recent film by Tacita Dean (b.1963) entitled Film was shown at the Tate Gallery between 11.10.2011 – 11.03.2012.  It is a 10 minute 35mm film projected on a tall white monolith, at the end of the darkened Turbine Hall.  It is part of The Unilever Series and it  celebrates the techniques of analogue as opposed to digital film making. Although it is a silent film, the YouTube video also depicts the ambient sounds within the gallery and the silhouettes of visitors watching the film, which can be rather distracting at times.

She is a British artist who is now based in Berlin and has worked as a draughtsman, photographer and filmmaker.  The Tate website (http://www.tate.org) describes her films  as acting “… as portraits or depictions rather than conventional cinematic storytelling, capturing fleeting natural light or subtle shifts in movement.”  Her work involves static camera positions and long takes. She states ( Tate Shots) that she is interested in old film techniques that create illusion.

The following image entitled Beautiful Sheffield (2001) shows her use of her photographs in the development of her ideas.


I found her work interesting as a crossover between photography and film and like Zarina Bhimji, has worked in both 16mm and 35mm film, and the human presence is incidental to what she is endeavouring to capture.  Her short film The Green Ray is interesting as there is merely a single shot with a commentary from Dean herself.

Prior to Film she exhibited a 16mm film at the Frith Gallery between May and June 2010 entitled Craneway Event (2009).  This shows the choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) and his dance company rehearsing in the former Ford Assembly Plant in San Francisco.  Whilst the human presence is vital to the film she is interested in the ever-changing light and uses this to fall in with the rhythm of the dancers movements.


I now plan to look at the work of several other film makers who have produced short films to see how they have worked to produce their results, particularly if minimal human presence and narration has been used.

6 Feb: Research – Zarina Bhimji

I first came across her work when I visited the Whitechapel Gallery in November 2012. To now go back and spend time looking at it in closer detail has been exciting and inspirational.  She works in different media from installations to photography.

She was born in 1963 in Uganda with Asian parents, and came to the UK when Idi Amin expelled all the Ugandan Asians in 1972. Her first film Out of Blue (2002)  was made with 16mm film and was an exploration of what was left behind, old crumbling buildings with traces of human habitation.

zarina_bhimji_outofblue_still_0 zarina room

This was followed by Waiting (2007).  She is now using 35mm film and although there is some human activity in part of the film, he is given minimal importance whilst she concentrates on the activity and the textures around him.

11_BhimjiShe seems to be on a search into her past and her most recent film Yellow Patch (2011) was also made with 35mm film.  The audio tracks give some clues to the visual images with a mix of ambient sounds, music and radio broadcasts from the time the buildings were occupied.  These give an almost ghost-like impression of human activity and a second layer of narrative to the film.

Zarina Bhimji Yellow-Patch--007

Zarina Bhimji

There is very slow panning of scenes and time spent still merely regarding what is in front of her, whether it is a muslin curtain blowing in the breeze, flaking paint, decaying edges of paper or old ropes and strings.   There is no human presence although a scene captures the beauty of a peacock amongst the desolation.   The film provides evidence of her work as a photographer through the careful composition of the shots.

She writes in her book (2012, p.23) which accompanies the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition about, ” … the sensitivity to the way in which painful experiences resist language”, and further states that, “I am interested in the tension between lyrical, intense beauty, and sociopolitical language.”  TJ Demos adds (p.27), that “the individual details of her films are essential in trying to speak of the unspeakable that wants to be spoken.”   Her work is described as a “post documentary approach that relinquishes information and factual presentation in order to probe the poetic and aesthetic elements of colour, texture and rhythm.” (p.11)

It was not possible to download her films but they can be viewed on her website at: http://www.zarinabhimji.com

The work has led me to much thought about how to relate this approach to my own work and the fact that I need to take everything down to a slower more contemplative level.