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The looking machineEssays on cinema, anthropology and documentary filmmaking$
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David MacDougall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526134097

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526134097.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 23 July 2021

Looking with a camera

Looking with a camera

(p.15) 2 Looking with a camera
The looking machine

David MacDougall

Manchester University Press

This chapter presents the camera as a ‘looking machine’ that extends human perception. However, photography and film fix the act of looking, placing further constraints on who can look at what, and forcing the act of looking into specific channels. The constraints take the form of artistic conventions in filmmaking itself, commercial pressures, community standards of propriety, legal and ethical concerns, and ultimately self-censorship. Filmmakers often compromise their work by colluding too closely with the aims of sponsors and the film subjects themselves. The author suggests that all these forces pose serious challenges to the ability of filmmakers to represent honestly what they see, resulting in lop-sided portrayals of human experience, particularly in documentary cinema. He argues that it may therefore be necessary to make ‘impolite’ films that challenge viewers’ cultural rigidity and ethnocentrism.

Keywords:   photography, filmmaking, censorship, documentary, ethics

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