Friday 18 November 2011

Power cuts and paper research

We had a power cut this morning in work - boy does it make you realise how reliant on computers we are! However luckily I had some paper based work I could get on with.  I was searching through 'The Woman Teacher' (the journal of the National Union of Women Teachers) for a report from a women teacher who moved to Italy in 1946/1947.  I found what I was looking for (a blog post on this will follow shortly on the NUWT blog) and I also found lots of other interesting information, particularly relating to film and children.  The NUWT were very concerned with the impact of increased cinema attendance on children and the types of films they were seeing.  They were also quite pioneering in their promotion of the use of film as an educational tool in the classroom.  However as you can see from the report below, some of them might have been slightly lacking in a sense of humour when it came to films and cinema!

image from 'The Woman Teacher', NUWT Collection ref: UWT/H/1/41 ©Institute of Education Archive

This is from the 27 September 1946 edition of 'The Woman Teacher' and the notice is called 'At the Academy Cinema'.  It begins by talking about a film being shown at the Academy cinema which they did think was worthwhile, a film Children on trial made by the Crown Film Unit.  This film was about three children in their teens who have drifted into crime being given the chance to become 'good citizens'. Now I can understand that from their viewpoint this would be a good educational film to show children but really you'd think they'd still have been able to take Zero de Conduite as the 'satirical phantasy' they describe it as rather than being so humourless about it.  I mean really -
'one cannot help wondering what kind of audience could find it even amusing'
- well I can imagine that most children watching would find it highly amusing as would a great many adults, thinking back to their school days.

I wonder what they'd have made of Lindsay Anderson's If.... then (influenced by Zero de Conduite) - where the children gun down their parents and teachers in an epic attack from the school roof.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Wednesday wonders - webinar on website editing training

So the wonder is.. it worked! Call me pessimistic but an online training session which required 3 different types of software and which would be 'attended' by people of varying levels of techy knowledge, well let's just say I wasn't convinced it would work.  However, I am happy to admit I was wrong.  The session went really well, we could all hear each other and see the screen of the trainer, Fiona Beckett.

I recently took up the voluntary post of Web Officer for the London Region of the Archives and Records Association (previously the Society of Archivists) and the training session was to help all the web and communication officers use the new ARA website.

This is how the London region homepage looks at the moment - nothing really wrong with it but it could do with a few images maybe? I've edited webpages before and obviously use blogger, as well as Wordpress for work, so uploading images and attachments isn't a problem.  However what I didn't know was that when adding images and attachments to this website we also add them to the content management system so now I know how to do that properly so the information is stored sensibly and is easily located in the future. 

There was lots of useful information that will hopefully help with encouraging more members to use the community section and I'm looking forward to getting on with updating and changing the web pages. I guess the issue is trying to make logging in and using the London region pages worthwhile - that means starting debates and discussions, posting interesting information on events, photographs of previous events and, well anything else that would be useful to archivists in London.  Anyone got any suggestions?

So, now I can go and experiment with the London region webpages - I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Flickr and the future of photography - new exhibition

I'm just back from a great trip to Berlin (more of that in later posts!) and took lots of photos whilst I was there.  I was uploading them all to Flickr and it made me think about the nature of photographs and how much it has changed in the digital age.  So when I read about a new exhibition in Amsterdam 'What's next?' exploring the future of photography it caught my interest.

There's such a proliferation of photographs - from people we know and people we don't know.  I quite happily share my photos via Twitter and Flickr, and now on Instagram.  I guess most people are nosy anyway and digital photos have just made it a lot easier to indulge in the habit of peeking into people's lives.  I'm certainly not complaining as I love seeing where my friend's have been, catching up on what friend's who don't live nearby are doing, and also seeing new places through the photos I see from people I don't know on Twitter and blogs.

It made me think about the value of photographs.  Does the huge number of photographs mean that we value them less? does the fact that we only develop a small percentage of what we take, if any at all, automatically mean we value them less? or is that just me being retro and old-fashioned?

The exhibition features four 'guest curators' and the one that jumped out at me was Erik Kessels with his investigation in to 'Photography in abundance'

installation by Erik Kessells at Foam, Amsterdam image courtesy of Creative Review

"We're exposed to an overload of images nowadays," says Kessels. "This glut is in large part the result of image-sharing sites like Flickr, networking sites like Facebook, and picture-based search engines. Their content mingles public and private, with the very personal being openly and un-selfconsciously displayed. By printing all the images uploaded in a 24-hour period, I visualise the feeling of drowning in representations of other peoples' experiences." taken from the Creative Review website, 15/11/2011
There's no way I'd ever develop all the photos I've stuck up on Flickr, because to be honest I don't think a lot of them are good enough.  However when I used to use a film camera I'd take loads of poor quality photographs and they'd be developed without me knowing how they'd turned out until I went to pick the film up.  Although my lack of skill as a photographer did mean I never hold out any great expectations of what my photographs will be like - digital or film!  Just looking at these images of the vast quantity of photos taken and uploaded in one day has made me think that I should maybe try and exercise a bit more control, or 'curation' as the buzzword is, over which images I put up.  I already do this when I get digital photos developed, select my favourites or the ones that are most representative of the holiday.

Foam is the acronym for 'The Future of Photography Museum' and going by this exhibition it sounds like an interesting place to visit.

Monday 14 November 2011

From the X-Men to Charade - designing title sequences

I was just looking at my Twitter feed and clicked on a link from @thenfb - the Twitter feed for the National Film Board of Canada and it led me back to Charade, the Stanley Dolan film starring Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant which I saw for the first time on Saturday night.  I find all these types of  coincidences quite entertaining so I thought I'd share this one.  The twitter caption read
"I'm in a design mood today. Check out the Maurice Binder-esque credits to one of my fav films of this year:"

So I duly clicked on the link and watched the title sequence as I still haven't seen the new X-Men film (I wish I'd got to see it when it was still at the cinema but it'll need to be on DVD now unfortunately).  The title sequence is great, very sixties, and my first thought was 'that's really similar to the title sequence to Charade'.  Then I wondered if I was only thinking that because that was the last film I watched (if you haven't seen Charade I can highly recommend it - a Hitchcock-esque thriller, with lots of humour, and amazing outfits from Audrey Hepburn of course!).  As I read down I saw that the designer, Simon Clowes, was influenced by Maurice Binder so I looked him up and sure enough, he designed the title sequence to Charade - spooky!

Ok, maybe I 'm a geek for getting so excited about little connections like that but I just love when connections appear where you don't expect it.  I also just looked up Charade as I was sure there must be a new print of it out as the reason I watched it was because I'd read about it recently somewhere.  There is a new restored high definition print just released by Park Circus films but you can also watch it online.  I watched it for free with our Lovefilm subscription and I noticed it's also available in the UK through Mubi

Saturday 12 November 2011

'Looking up - the big screen'

'Looking Up - Arguments in favor of bigness' by Michael Koresky and Jess Reichert

I've never been to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York but it is definitely on my list of top places to go on my next visit to New York (some time in a mythical future where I can afford such trips).  To celebrate the opening of their new film theatre they invited the editors of Reverse Shot to contribute a video essay and text on the wonders of film in the cinema, that is on the big screen.

They talk about a lot of the issues that have been on my mind recently when going to the cinema - why do I prefer the cinema to watching a film at home? what do I go to the cinema for? what do I want out the film - entertainment, escapism, thought-provoking? When I went to see Wanda recently I certainly wouldn't call it a comfortable cinema-going experience in the sense that I didn't go in, relax and disappear into the film for a few hours.  It wasn't that kind of film, it made me think, made me uncomfortable at many points, but ultimately it was still me leaving my world and entering another. I loved it but equally I love the complete escapism of going to see something silly like the latest X-men film where you can completely surrender to the fantasy world of the film, not have to think, and emerge a few hours later back into the real world.

Whatever type of film I'm in the mood for seeing though I'd pretty much always prefer going to the cinema to see it.  There's something so magical to me about 'the big screen' and the experience of going to the cinema so i really enjoyed listening to Michael Koresky and Jess Reichert ruminating on why this is. Some of the things they said that jumped out at me - 'if we see it big we also want to be small' 'we want to be in thrall to something larger, something greater'.

However, I'd certainly never want to give up the variety of ways that we have of viewing films - right now I'm so happy to have turned the TV on to find Singing in the Rain - only half an hour in, perfect Saturday afternoon viewing and I don't even need to leave the couch!