Above: A person studying. Credit: Startupstock.

The Big Six

There are certain texts which are essential and basic in critical theory today (e.g., Marx: Capital; Butler: Gender Trouble; Wittig: The Straight Mind; Klein: The Psycho-Analysis of Children; Deleuze & Guattari: Anti-Oedipus; Derrida: Limited Inc .... ). In the specific area of the philosophy and critical theory of photography there are a number of indispensable texts including Benjamin's, A Short History of Photography, and, Camera Lucida, by Barthes. In this same sub-field, several of the key texts are not actually texts at all. Several of the key texts are actually films. Many people think of a film or a movie as a type of leisure experience, something to be enjoyed as a form of entertainment. The films that I am thinking of here are not especially entertaining, if at all. They are not famed or revered as superb enjoyment. In these films the director (and/or screen-writer and/or author of the original literary property) can (and must) be thought of as a scholar, a philosopher. Their being an image-maker makes it quite usual and normal to communicate their ideas via a medium that is itself already an image. This status of "being an image" can be misleading for some. A film is not like a theory book! It looks like it might not be as serious as a written philosophical treatise. Sure, maybe, but actually, such a perception would be quite wrong. In fact the opposite is true: these films form the basic foundational pillars of the philosophy of photography-and-the-image. That being the case, "watching" any one of these films is usually carried on as if one is studying a classic text. That is, watched with access to a pause button and with a pen and notebook out. Watching any of them straight through at a cinema as well--if you can find a cinema showing any one of them--is to be encouraged, of course, as none of them was actually intended to be seen on a laptop-screen.

The big six: Federico Fellini: La Dolce Vita; Michelangelo Antonioni: Blow-Up; Chris Marker: La Jetee; Alfred Hitchcock: Rear Window; Michael Powell: Peeping Tom; Ridley Scott: Blade Runner.

(17 November 2018)