Errol Morris and Lens Culture

I’m reading a profile in Wired about documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (“the Interrogator,”May 16, 2008, by David Samuels, p. 127) and instantly like him as a result of this passage:

“Morris was initially rejected by every college he applied to, and he was later thrown out of graduate programs at UC Berkeley and Princeton. He remains a failed graduate student at heart, delighting in the pure play of ideas, with the secondary aim of exasperating any responsible adults in the room.”

I’ve decided that if I’m permitted to teach COM 320 “Vision and Culture” again at GVSU, I’m going to incorporate Morris’ film “Standard Operating Procedure” about the photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib) into the course because it covers precisely what we discuss about the perils of living in a “lens culture” with the illusion of truth captured within the frame of an image. This passage, describing his upcoming book Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?, sounds fascinating:

“Many of Morris’ blog posts reflect his interest in the ways that photographs presented as pure, objective documentation of reality are often staged and manipulated, like those from Abu Ghraib. Morris answers his more lively and particular commenters at length, weaving together the comments and annotating them in a loopy, digressive, but rigorous way that a friend, writer Ron Rosenbaum, has identified as an entirely new form of essay.”

It sounds like Morris may be paving the way for the type of book that I would like to write given that it’s the medium I so frequently participate in. Very exciting.

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