THIS book has grown directly out of the thirty years that I have taught on the various postgraduate programmes offered through the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Most of the chapters began life as notes for a series of lectures on the history of ethnographic film that I gave over many years and in a variety of guises. Although they have undergone many transformations since, my primary intended audience remains those who are approaching ethnographic film-making for the first time, whether it be as students, as teachers of anthropology or any other academic discipline that involves ethnography, or as film-makers working in other documentary genres who may be interested to discover more about ethnographic film.
While I hope to have been able to impart some elements of wisdom to the many students who have passed through our programmes, I am certain that I have learned a great deal from them, so my first expression of gratitude here is to them. I am also particularly indebted to David Turton, then Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at Manchester who was responsible, together with Marilyn Strathern, head of the Department, and Leslie Woodhead, the distinguished documentary director, then of Granada Television, not only for the conception and creation of the Granada Centre in 1987 but also for appointing me as its first Director. I am also grateful to the many other anthropologist colleagues at Manchester, in the broader department as well as in the Granada Centre itself, who have made the Centre such a stimulating and unusual place to work over the past thirty years.
I would probably never have been invited to teach at Manchester had it not been for the time that I had spent at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) at Beaconsfield, in the years 1984–87, as a beneficiary of the Ethnographic Film Training programme, a project conceived and funded by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) with the aid of a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. Much more recently, during 2014–17, the Trust again provided me with inestimably valuable support in appointing me to a Major Research Fellowship dedicated to an investigation of early ethnographic film. The early chapters of this book represent the first fruits of that period of research.
The people who made the RAI-Leverhulme programme at the NFTS happen in practice were Colin Young, then the Director of the School, and Herb di Gioia, head of the Documentary department. Colin and Herb, both individually and in unison, have inspired the careers of a great many film-makers, and not just in documentary. Their pedagogical styles were rather similar: an unusual combination of being very laid back and informal at a personal level, with being very stern and disciplined when it came to instructing us in how to make films. Why they should have taken such a particular interest in ethnographic film-making when neither had a background in anthropology, nor in any other social science, remains something of a mystery. But the fact remains that they did so, and with great passion, and through the four of us who went through the RAI-Leverhulme programme their ideas and attitudes towards the making of ethnographic film have been passed on to many hundreds of students of anthropology. In acknowledgement of this great debt, both personal and collective, I dedicate this book jointly to them.
I would also like to acknowledge here how much I have benefitted over the years from the advice of David MacDougall, who also first learned his trade as a film-maker under the watchful eye of Colin Young. David has been most generous in commenting with characteristic care and acuity on many chapters of this book. I would also like to thank the various other friends and colleagues who have read and commented on drafts of chapters that are particularly related to their own work. Here I am especially grateful to Phil Agland, the late Asen Balikci, Hugh Brody, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Pip Deveson, Ian Dunlop, Lorenzo Ferrarini, Carlos Flores, Faye Ginsburg, Aaron Glass, Paul Hockings, Gary Kildea, Melissa Llewelyn-Davies, Brian Moser, Johannes Sjöberg and Peter Whiteley. I apologize in advance for not always following their suggestions!
A great many others have contributed directly or indirectly to the development of the ideas that I present in this book. It is always invidious to offer a list of names, since it is only too easy to miss someone out, particularly when referring to a period as long as the thirty years that this book has been in gestation. So I shall with great restraint restrict myself to mentioning only Peter Crawford and Paul Stoller who acted as the supposedly anonymous but generously self-revealing readers of the manuscript for Manchester University Press. Their comments were extremely helpful in the preparation of the final manuscript.
This book features almost a hundred figures, the great majority of which are based on ‘screen grabs’ that are used here on a ‘fair dealing’ basis. However, I would like to register here my gratitude to a number of people for their generosity in allowing me to use the remaining images. Among individuals, I am particularly indebted to the magnificent cinematographer, Phil Agland, one of whose images adorns the cover of this book, whilst others are to be found in Chapters 12 and 13. Here too David MacDougall, equally accomplished as an image-maker, has made a major contribution to this book, generously providing images scattered through Chapters 5 and 14, while Jocelyne Rouch has shown a similar generosity in allowing me to use a number of her late husband's images in Chapter 8. I am also very grateful to Carlos Flores, my son Richard Henley, Lisa Silcock, Andy Jillings and Éric Brochu for allowing me to use their images in Chapters 7, 10, 12, 13 and 16 respectively.
Among organisations, Documentary Educational Resources (DER) of Cambridge, Massachusetts has been especially generous in providing me with images. I am particularly grateful to Alice Apley, the Executive Director for authorising this use and to Frank Aveni, the Director of Design and Media, for the care and diligence with which he sought out the best quality versions of the images that I requested. I would also like to thank the Ngaanyatjarra and Yolgnu community associations for securing permission from relatives to use the images of Aboriginal people that appear in the relevant figures of Chapters 3 and 6.
Meanwhile, in the later stages of production, Tom Dark, social sciences editor at MUP, has shown Job-like patience with the many missed deadlines and word-length overruns that have characterised the preparation of this manuscript. I am indebted both to him and to his various colleagues at MUP who have worked on the book, including particularly Rob Byron and Dee Devine, as well as to the freelance copyeditor, Doreen Kruger. I thank them all for their very valuable contributions. All translations in this book are my own.
Finally, I would reserve the most heart-felt thanks of all to my wife Olivia who has shown an even greater patience throughout the many years that I have been writing this book as well as bringing her proverbial eye for detail to the revision of the final text.