And what I’m thinking is that my main camera is probably going to be left behind.
And suddenly I feel like a great big bag of dicks. For most of its visitors, Paris is the trip of a lifetime. Am I honestly trying to say that I “know” Paris?
Hand on heart, I wouldn’t even say that about London and I’m actually paid to say that about London.
But if not Paris, then maybe narrative is something we can speak to. Authenticity.
What else is there to “say” about Paris in photographic form? It’s one of the most photographed places on earth. Especially by someone who isn’t exactly proficient with the ol’ shutterbox.
I’m not a local by any stretch but I do have my regular bistros and cafés and shops and picnic spots. Does the world really need another shot of the Eiffel Tower? We didn’t even see it on one of our last visits. This is important because the tools you use to look for meaning tend to generate particular results.
If you take a tripod and multiple lenses then you are creating PARIS. All shouty boulevards and palace gardens and impossibly elegant women riding bicycles while smiling at something behind them. Taking phone photos seems more conducive to catching the smaller moments. Especially as there are a number of excellent photo apps out there that let you play with meaning in unprecedented ways. (Camera+ is recommended.)
At film school my documentary tutor was completely obsessed with a then-recently released documentary that made use of the radically small consumer camera technology of the time. Rather than having boom mics and lights and whirring Arriflexes, this one little device would sit unobtrusively on the kitchen table. The subjects felt more at ease and as a result the content became much more honest. (Watch it here.)
I think about this a lot because the camera all the film kids wanted to have was the Canon XL1. It was the very cutting edge of prosumer digital video technology and none of us could afford it. A Canon XL1 was the only thing standing between us and a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
Today, my iPhone shoots better quality video.
Think about that.
I went to university to learn to use a device that is less sophisticated than a peripheral on the handset that is probably sitting within easy reach of you right now.
(Sidebar: I’m obsessed with shooting a documentary on an iPhone. Topic suggestions on a card, please.)
For a film student it’s impossible to overstate just how radical this development is.
The means of seeking and creating truth at a professional level have been utterly democratised.
Which leads inevitably to the magical implication: there has never been a better time for chaos.
And in this case, like all cases, we mean chaos in the the sense of potentiality rather than simply being an asshole.
We mean the reboot rather than the rewrite.
Because the rewrite carries a lot of risk that you obliterate rather than elaborate on a core revelation. I probably won’t take a phone photo of the Eiffel Tower. Doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Permit me to draw an example from popular culture (for a change.) Here’s what Grant Morrison has to say about Superman:
We writers come and go, generations of artists leave their interpretations, and yet something persists, something that is always Superman. We have to adapt to his rules if we enter his world. We can never change him too much, or we lose what he is. There is a persistent set of characteristics that define Superman through the decades of creative voices and it’s that essential, unshakeable quality of Superman-ness the character possesses in every incarnation, which is divinity by any other name.
Superman -so unashamedly special, so absolutely individual that he wore his own initial as a badge- reaffirmed human dignity by looking ahead to another time. Shuster ans Siegel had envisaged a future when we’d all wear our own proud emblems of revealed, recognized greatness, when technology would simply be a tool to help us express the creativity and connectedness that was the birthright of our golden superselves.
In Superman, some of the loftiest aspirations of our species came hurtling down from imagination’s bright heaven to collide with the lowest form of entertainment, and from their union something powerful and resonant was born, albeit in its underwear. He was brave, he was clever. He never gave up and he never let anyone down. He stood up for the weak and knew how to see off bullies of all kinds. He couldn’t be hurt or killed by the bad guys, hard as they might try. He didn’t get sick. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and to his adopted world. He was Apollo, the sun god, the unbeatable supreme self, the personal greatness of which we all know we’re capable. He was the righteous inner authority and lover of justice that blazed behind the starched-shirt front of hierarchical conformity.
In other words, then, Superman was the rebirth of our oldest idea: He was a god. His throne topped the peaks of an emergent dime-store Olympus, and, like Zeus, he would disguise himself as a mortal to walk among the common people.
(Yes, Supergods is an excellent book). All of this brings me back via ‘truth creating’ to the new trailer for Man Of Steel:
Naturally, I’m peeing myself with excitement but I’m also terrified that this is going to be the exact same ‘superhero origin’ movie they keep releasing. (Spiderman and Batman had the same message: stop running from who you are.) And the whole Deadliest Catch outtakes has me concerned that this is going to be another Zack Snyder homoerotic quest for what a real man should be. (Come out already, Zack.)
The most recent film wasn’t great (metaphorically shot on an iPhone) but it still captured Superman as the eternal orphan story, an outsider consciously choosing to do good on a daily basis. This just looks like… Wolverine.
Things to do on the Eurostar
Media time. (This is where the metaphor falls down, TBH.)
Speaking of travelling, please, please listen to this adorable story of the guy who might be the most-travelled person on earth. It’s everything I love about the Germans; reliable, understated, boring… but turn away for a few seconds and they do something remarkable.
Also speaking of travelling, the New York Times writes a truly amazing piece on the origins of hipster omnivorism and general snobbery. Must read.
London almost had a giant pyramid of the dead??! Amazing.
Speaking of what you can do with proper camera equipment when you stand riiiiiiight back:
Here’s a preposterously overwritten piece on the Pendle witches that is still worth your time.
Don’t ever say you’re busy. It explains nothing and just makes you look weak and disorganised. Consider your hacks updated!
Like most things to do with ufology, crop circles predate the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis by centuries. Which is to be expected but still neat.
The creator of the Gaia Hypothesis goes nuts for fracking. Must be an apocalypse.
A fascinating, full-length documentary about fading African magical traditions. Pretty sure I found this through someone on G+ and now I feel guilty because I can’t recall whom.
The dessert at the end of the meal
Bringing it back to low-tech filming and telling your own stories, please enjoy the latest track from my future husband/Devon’s finest, Cosmo Jarvis. “You don’t know how much I love this.” Got that right. And assuming you had the audio covered, you could have totally shot this with your handset.
So yes… I’m on my way to Paris to eat and drink and take phone photos and celebrate my friend’s birthday.
And, fingers crossed, I’ll get the opportunity to reboot rather than rewrite Superman.