Camp Diaries (Noland, 2009)
Photographer William Noland’s short film is being parsed in the festival catalog as a politically timely meditation on the toll of fear on ideals and rights during a time of war, and it is that. But there is something more universal and humane in a photographic image, something that transcends the de rigueur comparisons between past and present made in political discourse. Comparisons are powerful things. They can bring understanding and allow us to benefit from experience. They can also conflate items being compared and cause us to lose track of the particulars in each situation or object. Photography as a discipline is rooted in the particular. When looking at a photograph, we have to endlessly and eternally create and recreate the context, a process that is never finished. This is why the best photography is engaging. Beyond prompting a merely aesthetic reaction (“oh, that was pretty”), images confront us with concreteness, the antidote to dehumanizing abstraction.
I asked Noland about the title of his film and specifically why he chose the word “diaries” since the photographs in the film were overlaid not with words from the occupants of the internment camps but words from news and film reels which mediated the images (and the experience) for the public. He shared that the title was a nod to the reflective quality of Dorothea Lange’s photographs.
Filmwell (online film blog); 1MoreFilmBlog (online film blog