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Old March 1st, 2006, 12:39 AM   #61
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Bias and Ethics

Sean

I am not sure you do understand Sean, because the comments that follow your acknowledgement seem to miss my point completely. You spoke about your doyen Mehmet and his idea of an uninflected view. Do you imagine that such a person has a monopoly on what is obviously a universal attribute.

You use the argument that your instincts keep you safe from attack by another human. Do you consider yourself at risk in that way? What you are overlooking is that fact that this type of instinct is ‘hard wired’ and not part of the process I was talking about in shedding bias.

Bias is a distortion that we introduce developmentally. It may be that we have a bias that involves self-defence, but that is another matter altogether.

Film making is a process which should have the dual results of redeeming your biases and your audience's, unless you are a propagandist, in which case you are promoting your bias and encouraging theirs.

Rod C

Last edited by Rodney Compton; March 1st, 2006 at 01:16 AM.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 01:09 AM   #62
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'the palace'

Dear Jacques

I am quoting myself here from my original postings.

‘Our biggest problem is that natural talent tends to narrow us into specialization, thereby robbing us to some extent of a more contextual view of what we do.’

This is the voice of reason. You note I say ‘our’, because I include myself in this context. I have admired your passion a great deal and can identify with it; when I have seen sickening acts of vandalism, I want to tear the perpetrators limb from limb, but can I apply the same rules to myself when I transgress - as surely I do when working closely with animals.

I come back to my point about specialization and quote the bible on two accounts: ‘and lead us not into temptation’ – ‘let he who has no guilt cast the first stone’.

I am as certain as I can be that your comments about money are justified, nevertheless one cannot discount EVERYTHING involved in the process of the two movies under debate because of money.

It then becomes a matter of degree. This is not an academic debate, this is the life of a man and the life of a natural community of animals. Weigh the man’s transgressions against his achievements by all means, but then consider how big business and institutional graft wipe out whole ecologies without even a blink - I think that then puts the matter into context.

If you are whiter than white and you don’t transgress, you are not part of this specialized community of criminals and therefore outside of the scope of the debate.

Rod C

‘The liberation of the people is the cost of the palace’
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Old March 1st, 2006, 09:07 AM   #63
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A baby will walk right off the edge of a high place, like the stairs or a piece of furniture without reservation. They can catch a baseball on the nose if they aren't trained to use their hands. Self defense is not necessairly hard wired. It is a learned response that can be undone or altered with mental training.

I am simply saying that you cannot possibly rid yourself of all bias. You will always have a <bold>reason</bold> to get out of bed in the morning, to go to work, to eat food, to walk the dog. Those actions are motivated. The root of the motivation will create a bias in how you do an action.

If I am motivated to go to work because I need the money to pay rent on a tiny apartment that I hate, to pay for a car I don't really like, etc, my motivation is somewhat negative. I don't want to do it for my betterment or anyone elses. If on the other hand I go to work in a car I like, have friends I enjoy working with and will use the money to build a homeless shelter and to buy "toys" for myself, I am positivly motivated. Which motivation do you think will have me producing better work?

Same for the motivating factors of why one would shoot wildlife I should think. If it's just a job, I treat it as one and have less respect for the participants in the thing. If I am doing it for love, there is positive motivation and a reason to want to do it so I do not impact the relationship with the enviornment I am in. Sometimes that love can indeed be mis-channeled, perhaps as in the cae of Mr. Treadwell.

I am simply saying, as a human being, you cannot possibly rid yourself of all bias in what you do. It's not possible to be that neutral.

Sean
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:40 AM   #64
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i think what is sort of evolving is a discussion of motive and intent. and there are two drives being discussed here, the drive of ego and the drive of intuition, soul, higher self, call it by whatever name resonates.

both are linked to issues of intent (e.g. shooting wildlife for money, love, conservation concerns, education, etc.)

while i am very, very interested in learning how to listen to and understand my own intentions on a personal level--that is, i desire to listen to my higher self, my intuition, and do no harm, there are definitely moments when ego interferes--when getting the shot means more than, say whether i'm spooking the fox. ego isn't an all-bad or all-evil proposition. saying something is ego-driven carries a negative connotation. but really, survival, as sean points out, has its obvious use value to humans. but also, its greedy, over-reaching downside.

but...in my view, ego tries to lead (to money, to generating identity, to celebrity), whereas intuition follows (to destiny, to love, to non-separation from our planet). ego tends to be the treadmill we run on, like a hamster. intuition is the escalator which carries us to our appointed destination.

i always notice a difference between the quality of a project that i have sought out, versus the projects which have somehow sought me out.

i think there is a big difference in my experience between when i hunt for shots of animals, and when i feel the experience unfolds itself for me.

having said that, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. i think timothy treadwell had good intentions. he was a most earnest, eager, loving fellow (i've mentioned before that, having seen him live, his being and, i believe, his intentions are flattened considerably by the medium of film). i'm sure the "winged migration" folks claim educational intent for what they did as well.

but i would submit that the outcomes of these experiments actually seem to be almost completely unhinged from intent. does intent even matter on any level beyond the personal? in other words, my intent deeply matters to me. i want to be in my integrity when i pursue animals for the purpose of mechanically reproducing their images. but is it even visible to anyone else in the product or the outcome?

now i find myself siding with richard that these boil down to personal choices, i suppose. but the debate still matters because what others are doing is still an important measure of the practices we choose ourselves.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 10:47 AM   #65
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Sorry I can't read through this whole thing!

Here's my take. As long as you aren't interfering with wildlife or influencing their behaviour in a detrimental manner then photographic animals is perfectly ethical.

It's when you stage animals or use animals for your own purpose and at the same time take away from their ability to survive that the ethical line is crossed. For example, if you live trapped birds put then in a pen to obtain close up shots, later to release them. You must remember that birds work day to day to collect food. One day lost in collection could result in loss of yearly clutch. If the animals is free to move about then it really shouldn't make a difference.
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Old March 1st, 2006, 11:35 AM   #66
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Christopher sums up the actual answer to the question, as I recall it anyway.

Let's not forget that these same philosophical issues we are debating are universal in that they don't just apply to scenic wildlife shots. To be philosophical about your day to day activities, and even to spill over into some religious practices, you must always examine your intent and know the "why" of something.

Meryem also mentions something we probably all realized at one time or another and that is, if I do it for me, and it makes me happy on some level, it is a better project. If I am asked to do a wedding, at this point in my life, I may take the job and the money but it is not a job that makes me happy. If I volunteer to shoot a wedding out of interest in the couple or the families involved, I do an much better and more satisfying job, money or no.

I have sought out several forms of wildlife here in central Ohio, including the Blue Heron that seems to love our end of Hilliard. Interesting birds simply because they remind me of pteradactyls in their flight style. (This is imagined naturally never having seen a living pteredactyl fly).

I have yet to get a shot that pleases me but my motivation is lower than some of you out there.

I don't think I have anything more to add on this one except, to sum up my position once again, examine your motivation for a project of any type. This will help you discover any tendancies/leanings/bias in the project you may unwillingly be adding to the "coloration" of the subjects objectivity. This goes double for anyone claiming to do an impartial documentary.

Last words: I don't think I anyone can do an unbiased documentary. Shots selection, backgrounds, coloring, audio, voice inflection, personal upbringing and POV, political climate, is the job paid for by some agency with an agenda? Too many variables that color the outcome.

We should still strive for it and thank those that come close to it.

Great discussion everyone.

Sean McHenry
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 06:07 AM   #67
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While I've done very little video work with wildlife, I've done tons of wildlife observation and taught other people how to do it, as well.

So... its impossible to walk out your front door without "interfering" with the wildlife. Or get out of your car when you pull up to the trailhead for a nice hike. Chip, CHIP! Twitter! And off flies the little bird that was eating before you so rudely interrupted.

And 20 yards away the deer that was feeding looks up and focuses her ears in your direction. She stops her rythmic eat-watch-eat-watch-step-eat-watch routine to figure out if what interupted that bird is a threat to her.

And 20 yards from her the fox notices that she's distracted by something (and probably heard the bird alarm, as well.) He's not waiting around for you to come up the trail- he just quietly moves off long before you ever knew he was there.

(Maybe this isn't news to wildlife videographers, but the trick is to not scare off that bird in the first place. Its like disarming the alarm system of the wild.)

The idea of NOT affecting the wildlife (or anything else) that you are interacting with is pretty far fetched. Even your presence has ripple effects that you may or may not be aware of and that affect the behavior of whatever you're trying to shoot.

Since the intention of most wildlife video is to educate and impact the viewer... they're going to be affected, too. And I think its worth the risk and ethical questions about interfering with and harming the animals. Most moderns folks I know of today have very little idea what the natural world is about, and most of their ideas are misinformed. Very few have any experience with "nature" other than walks in the park and weekend camping at KOA. Or even backpakers storming through a deserted, but beautiful, landscape- pushing the wildlife away from them without even realizing it. It all happens before they got there and after they left.

Animals die. It happens with alarming regularity and its really only our own squeamishness about it that makes it seem somehow wrong.

More of them will die if people don't understand them or think to consider them.

Take care,
Chris
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Old March 2nd, 2006, 06:37 AM   #68
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Not bad for a first post, Chris.

Thanks for your observations; first of many hopefully.
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 02:45 PM   #69
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 02:56 PM   #70
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 03:59 PM   #71
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To film, or not to film

Hi folks,

I have not edited anything for a couple of weeks since embarking on this thread. I have however learned a lot about myself, my film and my creativity. In replying to some of the points raised, I have been able to crystallise my intuitive thoughts into a 'philosophical standpoint'.

I am very lucky in having been given a talent to create wonderful images. This has been great with photography, but my film work challenges my personality in ways photography never could. The first time I completed a film of my own, which had one good shot in it, I got a physical sensation; which I can only say amounted to a feeling of 'completeness' - and of course I was then hooked...

I spent all of last spring and a lot of the summer filming one subject and ended up with a huge amount of material. Editing it has been a challenging task: knowing I had key shots, but doubting sometimes that the real story would remain hidden. I discovered that 'structure' was evidently not included in my package of talents and in film-making it is indispensable. Overdoing structure from the start would have been an undoubted straight jacket to my intuition, the manufacturer of the magic shots, but without structure all I had was a succession of great clips. At one point I thought perhaps that was all I could produce and subsequently considered just supplying my 'great clips' as pieces to be included in other peoples films.

We all need help. Sometimes it comes from within, sometimes from without, whichever way it comes, we need to sharpen our sensitivity to such hints.

In answer to Meryem's question about the effect of a film-makers care in the end product. Sometimes you can actually see the 'love in every shot', it is certainly my aim from now on.

To all concerned: thanks, it has been an interesting ride.

Rod C
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Old March 3rd, 2006, 04:59 PM   #72
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So now the question of the intent of your hitting the hills to shoot all that footage comes back as a question it seems. Why did you shoot all that lovely footage if you had no established goal for the footage? Perhaps the goal changed over the time period of when you started until now? (not being critical, just trying to help you think about what to do with the footage)

Eithere way, inspiration will strike, probably in the shower like a lot of us, and you will find a good home for your great shots. Listen to some music. That's what I do when I am feeling uninspired. If you want to hear some new creative music, hit unsignedbandweb.com. I suggest the "Ambient" catagory to give you some mental imagery to go along with your video. It helps me sometimes. New music can send you a direction you didn't think of.

It will come to you when you stop thinking about it so hard.

Good luck, and remember, we're all pulling for you.
In more words of wisdom from Red Green, keep your stick on the ice,

Sean McHenry
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Old March 4th, 2006, 05:56 AM   #73
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To Sean

Thanks Sean,

There was never any question of intent, I was simply drawn to it by my instincts. If you read my threads you will know I have been around a long time. During this time, from the late sixties onwards, I have been manouvered by my instincts - or fate, into one craft after another; the next beckoning carrot or green field just over the brow, each one sharpening and shaping my abilities. Diverted sometimes for long periods of time, as with my second unsuccessful marriage and twenty year career in commercial advertising and photography, but always moving towards an inexorable goal and always subject to the power of self discovery.

I had an operation last Spring that freed me from a substantial physical inhibition and I feel now as if I have started again, but with the bonus of all that acquired knowledge, discipline and skill. I am fitter, because of the physicality of walking, carrying and cycling, and although I am ageing, now I have the time to take charge of my diet and manage my health, which is an amazing bonus after being at the whim of other peoples requirements for so long.

When I came to start filming, I knew that if I wanted to produce the best it would take at least a year, possibly two. I will be switching to HDV this year and filling in gaps that were left by last years work, perhaps re-shooting key shots in the process. The main issue is that I have discovered my own style, which is unique to me and my synthesis of life and quite unlike anything in our genre. It brings together my love of images, still and moving, my love of music - modern and classical, and my love of modern art and classical dialogue; I couldn't ask for more. When I had my first bite at the cherry in the 1980's, I was simply not equipped for the challenge, now I am, being much older and a little wise one.

I read your piece about the mortgage, the car, the life. Let me tell you my friend: it's a trap, it's slavery, it's the loss of self. Start by thinking it can be different, and it will be. Make the inevitable sacrifices to follow your goals; put one foot beyond the other and take the path to freedom and creativity. That is the best advice I can give you; let Nature be your guide and you will succeed.

Oh, and I want a royalty when you crack the big time.

For myself, I am quite happy to live and work in relative obscurity, perhaps sharing my work with an admiring and constructive few.


Rod C
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Old March 12th, 2006, 08:03 PM   #74
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In case any of you is interested and lives in Canada, 'Grizzly Man' is showing on Discovery channel tonight at 9pm and then repeat 12am. Pacific Time.
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Old March 13th, 2006, 07:30 AM   #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney Compton
Thanks Sean,

There was never any question of intent, I was simply drawn to it by my instincts. If you read my threads you will know I have been around a long time. During this time, from the late sixties onwards, I have been manouvered by my instincts - or fate, into one craft after another; the next beckoning carrot or green field just over the brow, each one sharpening and shaping my abilities. Diverted sometimes for long periods of time, as with my second unsuccessful marriage and twenty year career in commercial advertising and photography, but always moving towards an inexorable goal and always subject to the power of self discovery.

I had an operation last Spring that freed me from a substantial physical inhibition and I feel now as if I have started again, but with the bonus of all that acquired knowledge, discipline and skill. I am fitter, because of the physicality of walking, carrying and cycling, and although I am ageing, now I have the time to take charge of my diet and manage my health, which is an amazing bonus after being at the whim of other peoples requirements for so long.

When I came to start filming, I knew that if I wanted to produce the best it would take at least a year, possibly two. I will be switching to HDV this year and filling in gaps that were left by last years work, perhaps re-shooting key shots in the process. The main issue is that I have discovered my own style, which is unique to me and my synthesis of life and quite unlike anything in our genre. It brings together my love of images, still and moving, my love of music - modern and classical, and my love of modern art and classical dialogue; I couldn't ask for more. When I had my first bite at the cherry in the 1980's, I was simply not equipped for the challenge, now I am, being much older and a little wise one.

I read your piece about the mortgage, the car, the life. Let me tell you my friend: it's a trap, it's slavery, it's the loss of self. Start by thinking it can be different, and it will be. Make the inevitable sacrifices to follow your goals; put one foot beyond the other and take the path to freedom and creativity. That is the best advice I can give you; let Nature be your guide and you will succeed.

Oh, and I want a royalty when you crack the big time.

For myself, I am quite happy to live and work in relative obscurity, perhaps sharing my work with an admiring and constructive few.


Rod C
Rod, everything you said in the above message about fitness and ageing is familiar territory to me. I seem to start going downhill about once a year and then wake up and save myself, once again. Eventually, I'll run out of chances for full recovery, if I let myself slip out of shape, too much and once too often. And yes, being able to walk and cycle becomes much more of a blessing, if you've lost it for a time and can no longer just take it for granted. Seven years ago, I was hobbling for awhile, but nowadays, I've been packing 30 lbs. of video gear for 10-15 miles a day and enjoying it. Thirty years ago, I would have been annoyed at having to pack it that far, but now, I'm thrilled at being able to do it.
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