October 2011 Archives

I'm pleased to announce that A Japanese Funeral will be awarded the David Plath Media Award at the upcoming American Anthropological Association annual meeting. The prize committee noted:

This short documentary allows viewers to participate in a Japanese funeral following the unexpected death of a 39 year old man in his sleep. While the film shares no information about how the director came to have such open access to the event and family in question, it is an example of an aspect of ethnographic film often left undiscussed - a richness and intimacy that comes from sustained fieldwork preceding the shooting. Not only is the anthropologist there and given access once the death occurs but there is a sense that she has ties to the community that extent far beyond the three day even the film documents. In other words, the film allows one to see rather than stare at a Japanese funeral. The film should also be commended on its brevity because the disciplined editing contributes to the film being an experiential ethnography rather than an expository documentary.

Thank you!

The official website (with downloadable trailers) of my film is here: http://videoethnography.com/funeral/

The film itself can be purchased on Amazon.com.

My (Jason) photography knowledge is pretty thin, so I was happy to see this article on NPR titled "A Woman Of Photos And Firsts, Ruth Gruber At 100." As the article explains:

At the age of 100, Ruth Gruber is responsible for a lot of firsts. When she was just 20, she became the youngest Ph.D. ever at the University of Cologne in Germany. She was the first photojournalist, much less female journalist, to travel to and cover both the Soviet Arctic and Siberian gulag. She documented Holocaust survivors and the plight of the ship, the Exodus 1947.

In other words, "She was just a badass -- no other way describe it," as Maya Benton is quoted in the article.

The short article also touches very clearly on some of the ethnographic issues of positionality anthropologists often face, for good or for bad. As the article says "being a woman gave her an advantage in getting sources to reveal themselves" and includes this exchange as an example of this advantage in action:

In 1944, she spent two weeks on the Henry Gibbins, a ship of 1,000 Jewish refugees, many of them clad in striped concentration camp uniforms, on a voyage from Italy to America.

She recalls: "Some of the men said, 'We can't tell you what we went through, it's too obscene. You're a young woman!' I said, 'Forget I'm a woman, you are the first witnesses coming to America.' So they talked. Nobody refused to talk."


One of my pals asked me which I thought was better: the Panasonic GH2 or the new GXR A-12 with M-mount. I own the GH2 and tested the GXR / A-12 at a camera show recently.

Here were my thoughts:

GXR or a Panasonic is a hard question, I think....

If you were only to put Leica lenses on it, I think the GXR is better:

+ Lower crop factor (1.6x vs. 2.0x) and bigger sensor
+ Better manual focusing options
+ Ability to code EXIF data to custom lenses
- The eye-level viewfinder was good but not *great*

If you wanted to use the Panasonic / Leica DG lenses as well as others then the Panasonic is better:

+ Much broader supply of auto-focus, auto-aperture Microfourthirds lenses from Panasonic, Olympus, and Leica
+ Ability to mount many more types of lenses (Nikon F, Pentax K, Leica R, C-Mount, original Olympus Pen, etc.)
+ More body options (GH2, G, GF3)
+ GH2 eye-level finder is very good (but not great).

I was also really impressed by the Fuji X100 viewfinder but I want it with an M mount rather than a fixed lens.
I was not so impressed with the Sony NEX but there are many people who like them.
The new Nikon 1 is a failure, I think. The Pentax mini series has some nice 'toy' features.

As for used camera lenses, in USA: KEH camera and B&H camera are the best.

In Japan, my favorites are Camera Alps in Shinjuku and Fujiya in Nakano.


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