Jean Rouch introduced
the concept of «participative camera» in participative
observation. He had a huge influence in what we call image
ethnology. For Rouch, we should deepen the internal aspects
more than the external, a fact which, according to Mc
Dougall, may lead to "the illusory impression of
understanding". Jean Rouch, however, goes further
in his unorthodox methods:
me the only way to film is to walk with the camera,
taking it where it can be most effective (...) Thus,
the camera becomes as alive as the people it is
filming''. Regarding feedback (or image return),
which he calls "contre don audio-visuel",
Rouch says in a paper written twenty years ago:
"The future will be the time of color
video footage, of magnetoscopic editing, of instant
recovery of the recorded image, i.e., the dream
of Vertov and Flaherty, a «cine-mechanic-ear».
The camera will be so participative that it will
end in the hands of those who were until now behind
is a proposition similar to Mc Dougall’s : «A new
step will be taken when participation occurs at the level of
film conception itself."
as France, advocates the need for the researcher to become a
filmmaker himself, i.e., the researcher must be co-responsible
for the film: "Personally I am strongly against hiring
a movie crew, except in cases outside my control. And in my
opinion, only an ethnographer is in a position to know when
and how to film, or in other words, how to direct."
de France speaks of a certain « semi-unconscious
» characteristic of research, when images are used:
"To film without being totally aware of the methodological
principles and presentation procedures adopted by us,
is not, as we see it, uncompatible with a methodological
reflection during the periods when we are not filming.
It is an alternation, often fertile, between research
stages ruled either by action or by thought." (France,
THE BODY AND THE VIDEO
Wanono, always loyal to Jean Rouch’s tradition,
carefully describes the filming of peanut and sesame seed
oil production by the women of Dogon, in Africa. Her rendition
of the Dogon women’s ritual selects the body as the
main thread of the movie.
France reports that one of the first things that the images
show is unceasing body activity. She emphasizes three axes
of technical behaviors: bodily, material and ritual.
image cannot apprehend the body without referring to its material
support or to the equally material purpose of its activities
(...) The body and the material operations shown by the images
point to aspects that are hidden from society and placed outside
the delimited field, and which conveert all gestures into
rites. (...) The filmed images always outline a moment in
the relationship between body, matter and rite, lying at the
core of the cooperative chain".
shows that a certain number of procedures such as framing,
angles of vision and camera movements emphasize one of these
aspects according to the researcher’s methodological
orientation. In relation to the body language, the use of
video becomes central and "much more than a mere illustration
to the oral questionnaire and written text: the inversion
of the relationship between observation and language should
open new perspectives to the written description of technical
behaviors, which usually results in an excess of text"
The use of images is a new methodological path for understanding
cultural and social life.
her research about the Dogon women, Wanono points out that
the women’s postures "are ruled by custom and rite,
conveying a large part of the history of Dogon tradition",
and leading to the conclusion that "the body is the image
of time passing"
first and most natural technical object is the body "
J. La Camera et les Hommes, in C. FRANCE, C. (dir.). Pour une
anthropologie visuelle. Paris, Maison des Sciences de L'Homme,
N. Ciné-rituel des femmes Dogon. Paris, CNRS, 1987."
C. Corps, matière et rite dans le filme ethnographique,
in Pour une anthropologie visuelle. Paris, Maison des Sciences
de L'Homme, 1979."