Doing Documentary Work

Doing Documentary Work

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Description

Sitting in his study, William Carlos Williams once revealed to Robert Coles what he considered to be his greatest problem in writing a documentary about his patients in New Jersey - the gulf that separates the reality of the subject from the point of view of the observer. In this volume, child psychiatrist Robert Coles, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Children in Crisis" series, offers a penetrating look into the nature of documentary work. Utilizing the documentaries of writers, photographers and others, Coles shows how their prose and pictures are influenced by the observer's frame of reference: their social and educational background, personal morals, and political beliefs.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 278 pages
  • 139.7 x 210.82 x 27.94mm | 272.15g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195116291
  • 9780195116298

About Robert Coles

About the Author: Robert Coles, M.D., is a child psychiatrist, and the James Agee Professor of Social Ethics Harvard University. He is a founding member of the Center of Documentary Studies at Duke University. An essayist, poet, and noted writer, he is author of numerous books on the lives of children, including the multi-volume works The Inner Lives of Children and Children in Crisis, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He is also the co-editor of the documentary magazine Double Take.show more

Review Text

A challenging exploration of documentary writing and photography, focusing on the ways in which researchers can affect, reshape, or misrepresent what they see. Coles, the noted psychiatrist and Harvard ethicist (The Moral Intelligence of Children, 1997, etc.), notes in the introduction that he has been preparing to write this book "for over 35 years" - ever since he and his wife, while studying the integration of schools in Louisiana in 1960, first tried to make sense of what it meant to be witnesses, researchers, and onlookers. A fascination with the moral and practical consequences that arise when observers (journalists, academics, or social activists) probe the lives of a class of people - whether coal miners (George Orwell), migrant workers (Dorothea Lange), or Mississippi farmers (James Agee and Walker Evans) - led Coles to become one of the founders of Duke University's Center of Documentary Studies. Poet/doctor William Carlos Williams and biographer/therapist Erik Erikson are Coles's heroes, and from them and others he draws his theme: "We notice what we notice in accordance with who we are." Coles offers striking examples of the way in which preconceptions can alter what is seen, including Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photograph: That seminal Depression-era picture was selected from a series of shots and then cropped for dramatic impact, in accordance with Lange's personal vision, with who she was, with what she wanted to communicate about poverty in the South. Also examined, in sometimes rambling, verbose passages, are the impact the observer makes on those being observed and the tendency by writers like Agee and Orwell, for instance, to put on a pedestal the farmworkers and coal miners who helped make them famous. Journalists, social workers, and therapists, as well as producers of print or film documentaries, will find this ruminative volume of special use, reminding them of the questions they should ask themselves before they invade schools, workplaces, and private lives. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Review quote

"Journalists, social workers, and therapists, as well as producers of print or film documentaries, will find this ruminative volume of special use, reminding them of the questions they should ask themselves before they invade schools, workplaces, and private lives."--Kirkus"Rich with narrative and smart in a warm and accessible way, this is a book for storytellers of every stripe."--Utne Reader"Indispensable for students of the documentary."--Booklist..".passionate ideas and cogent analysis fill the book.--Library Journal"A challenging exploration of documentary writing and photography, focusing on the ways in which researchers can affect, reshape, or misrepresent what they see...Journalists, social workers, and therapists, as well as producers of print or film documentaries, will find this ruminative volume of special use, reminding them of the questions they should ask themselves before they invade schools, workplaces, and private lives."--Kirkus Reviewsshow more

Rating details

75 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 19% (14)
4 44% (33)
3 27% (20)
2 8% (6)
1 3% (2)
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