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Sense of Place
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'The contradictory or paradoxical thing is that in a documentary the real things depicted are liable to lose their reality by being photographed and presented in that documentary way, and there's no poetry in that. In poetry, something else happens. Hard to say what it is. Presence let's say, soul or spirit, an empathy with whatever it is that's dwelt upon, feeling for it - to the point of identification.' - Margaret Tait

Since the very earliest photography there has been a sense that an image can reveal the truth of the world. Photographic images as soon as they could be reproduced were thought to be able to say more about what was actual than words ever could.

But in truth, reality has been framed by someone with a particular agenda and particular prejudices and is viewed later by a viewer with their own prejudice. There is no objective truth to be filmed and the framing of an image only serves to reminds us of this. The classic documentary filmmaker's main battle is with this dilemma: to ensure his or her neutrality; to find strategies for documenting given reality as fully as possible.

The relationship between artist and subject can be freed in artists' documentary work. Coming from different practices of portraiture and still life painting, the artist can observe the given world subjectively, there is no disguise of neutrality - what you are seeing often is the way an individual artist sees and wants to reflect the world. Crucially, the artist can represent the world as he or she sees it, away from the constraints of storytelling and independent of the political agendas of broadcasters and commissioners.

Once again this boundary-pushing is what allows what Margaret Tait describes as empathy to be freed from its usual constraints and to be transferred to the new viewer.

Island Race

Island Race

An examination of the post industrial landscape of London's East End.

Desert Rose

Desert Rose

A chilling account of the after effects suffered by the 'down-winders' from the Nevada Desert nuclear testing site.

Talk Israel

Made in 1992 during the first intifada, this film explores the continual process of war and peace.

Still from Dilapidated Dwelling

Dilapidated Dwelling

This is an examination of the predicament of the house in advanced economies, the UK in particular.

Still from Desire


Stuart Marshall traces cultural and official attitudes towards sexuality.

Still from RIFF


The origin of the word 'riff' is unknown.

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