Lesson Plan: Irony and Lies in Photography and Cinema, pt 1

Pierre Vallieres (Joyce Weiland, Canada, 1972)

Ian here—

In my fall 2016 course “Moving Images and Arguments,” a survey of rhetorical techniques across cinema (including plenty of documentaries and essay films), video art, and videogames, I devoted two separate class sessions to the theme of “Ironic Narration and Lying Photographs.” What follows is the first. (I’ll be posting the second later.)

One learning objective for this week was to get students thinking critically about where, exactly, the “lies” come from in photographs that we consider untrustworthy. To this aim, I assigned “Two Futures for Electronic Images,” a chapter from D. N. Rodowick’s The Virtual Life of Film, as reading. I also directed students to the website for “Altered Images,” the Bronx Documentary Center’s exhibition of manipulated documentary photography, to peruse the images and stories collected there. My second learning objective, though, was to slide away from issues of documentary and “lying,” toward issues of humor and irony. Where do we draw the line between lies that are meant to deceive, and lies that are meant as entertaining winks?

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Sprayed: A Video Essay on The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal

Terry Hines

Terry Hines and Luke White are two UChicago students who take an adventure through Hyde Park to investigate the sunconscious artisitc merits of graffiti removal. Inspired by the 1990s documentary, White and Hines venture into the urban streets of Chicago to discern for themselves what really matters when judging art in the world.