The Gaze Theory

My tutor recommended looking into the critical theory of the Gaze. I wasn’t familiar with this theory and my tutor warned it was quite heavy.

Before beginning the article I thought of what the the verb ‘gaze’ conjured up. It can be to look intently at something. To be scrutinised severely. To lay your eyes upon something truly magnificent. To stare seems more powerful than to gaze  However, after an in depth study there are far more connotations of meaning relating to gaze. There generally aren’t pleasant connotations of the word stare. You would stare at someone you were suspicious of, something you were alarmed by.   To gaze however is something more powerful, relaxed or romantic, something that might take longer or be more general in a sweeping way. One would gaze at a sublime view, their true love, they may even gaze longingly at their meal in a elegant restaurant. From an art POV, I assumed we would be looking into the effect of gazing at the cinema screen or a painting. Such as the theory in The Power of Movies where Colin McGinn likens watching cinema to gazing into a new dimension.

I read the article here

It was very informative and interesting reading the article. I have ventured into the psychology of photography but philosophy is something I haven’t considered as such. I will research more into this in the next part of the course. The article showed how the word gaze is used in art forms. It explored the many synonyms of the word and investigated how it could be perceived. Each paragraph asked questions, focusing on a different subject each time.

In this painting, the spectator himself becomes the subject of the painting, captured by the gaze of the painter insofar as he remains a spectator gazing at the painting. As the spectator thus becomes part of the spectacle the “observer and the observed take part in a ceaseless exchange. No gaze is stable…subject and object, spectator and model reverse their roles into infinity.”2 The interplay (or communication) between the two gazes thus blurs the boundaries between the two roles until it becomes unclear who exactly is gazing at whom; the gaze becomes a mode of interaction between spectator and the work of art.

With this statement it is suggesting that the power of the gaze is so intense that the viewer abruptly becomes part of the painting. Almost as though the artist realised the full power of the painting would only be created on human contact. Though all art only comes alive with this contact. That said you could imagine a painting left in the attic, it’s eyes staring out of the painting, perhaps something worthy of a horror movie or to portray something nostalgic.

This suggests that the viewer is a removable part of the art.  Thinking about this, could one say that we are the one gazing or the one being gazed at. Just because one object may be in the real world and another in a two dimensional form is the power any more less powerful from that of the two dimensional being. Such as the intense stare of a subject in a painting.

I bring attention here to the quote in Doctor Who in which Amy Pond, one of the main protagonists, was trapped in a trailer with the deadly Weeping Angel. The weeping angel is a creature that you will never see move. Instead whenever you blink it moves violently fast so it is suddenly much closer. The only way in which to beat this creature was to keep eye contact and not blink. “The eyes are the window to the soul.” However later this is turned on it’s head as the Doctor realises, ‘The eyes are not the windows to the soul they are the doors,” and in this they have possessed her with this gaze. The intensity of the gaze between painting and viewer could be irrevocably linked as they become petrified. Indeed the article states “there is a perverse pleasure in looking and not being able to look away. Much like the gaze of Medusa turned the onlooker into stone, so too does the image hold the power to immobilize its viewer.” This makes the connection of a painting and viewer almost mystical, ethereal, of ascending to another dimension for the moment frozen in time.

The Male Gaze

The article delves further into the gaze from both genders. Laura Mulvey a British feminist film theorist saw, “that the cinema is the medium for male subjects to further exert their mastery over female objects, identifying with the dominant gaze of the camera.

This opens all new pathways from the generic gaze to the Male Gaze which has been studied in great depth. It suggests that the ‘male gaze strips all identity and humanity from the woman on screen,  rendering them as an object for the male gaze to ravish. When you read the percentage of how around only 16% of characters in the movies are female does this suggest that the cinema is made purely for the enjoyment and sexual satisfaction of men. Mulvey argues that women serve for only two functions, of an erotic subject to be enjoyed in the narrative and also for the viewers. Nowadays with feminism and equal rights we see more feminine heroes in roles usually played by the opposite sex. Katnis in the Hunger Games, Tris Prior in Divergent and Rey in Star Wars, the Force Awakens. See my piece on Feminism in StarWars 

All are good examples of strong female characters, they become characters to look up to and transcend beyond the movie screen.

It is believed that watching movies is a Socophilia practise, love of watching. However the way it is described makes cinema feel like something distasteful, that people who go to the cinema are going for voyeuristic reasons. When in actual fact we all go to the cinema or watch a movie for escapism, to see a good story. I do feel that the issues with investigation of theories such as this is that some seek to over sexualise every situation. Why can’t going to the cinema be seen as something innocent?

There are even those that see the gaze as unseeing. Becoming more blind the more one forces themselves to see the painting.

In conclusion it is clear that the gaze is a very powerful force, drawing the viewer into participating in the painting or movie, albeit it often unintentionally. The gaze can be interpreted by each individual person in a different way however the power of the gaze will always latch onto the viewer. I will finish this off with a thought from the photographer Michael Freeman, who says that the human eye is always irrevocably drawn to another person in a photo, painting or video no matter how small or seemingly unapparent that person is. People are drawn to people thus we will always interact with another person in a painting and one of the most intense ways of this is to have the eyes meet. To gaze upon one another.



Symbolism – Death’s Head Hawk Moth and Assignment Three Thoughts

“Symbolism is the language of the Mysteries. By symbols men have ever sought to communicate to each other those thoughts which transcend the limitations of language.” – Manly Hall 

In a Skype conversation my tutor brought to my attention about the symbolism of the Death Hawks Head Moth. As a keen wildlife enthusiast, I had heard of this beautiful creature, however, I did not know of its great role it plays in symbolism. Featured in everything from the Pre Raphelite painting, The Hireling Shepherd by William Holman Hunt to the sickening and twisted movie, the Silence of the Lambs (which I have no wish to watch) Dracula, Un Chien Andalou it’s fluttered its way throughout history as a hidden symbol. The symbol it represents however always has dark connotations. It serves as a symbol of the death of the church in the Hireling Shepherd painting. A dead moth is found in Un Chien Andalou an equally dark movie.


My tutor suggested including footage of a Deaths Head Hawk Moth in Assignment Three as he felt it would be stronger to have something suggested earlier on about the poison. I wasn’t sure where to find such footage. I have used occasional stock sounds such as the dawn chorus in Assignment Four but felt it would be cheating myself to use stock footage of a moth, plus I wasn’t sure it would be allowed. I considered several ideas of how to incorporate the moth into my assignment. Some of my ideas were.

  • A moth flying by as the man cuts the roses. Or flying generally. Peter said you could even just include it with no reference.
  • The moth featuring as a phone wallpaper. This would involve a new narration or plot though.
  • A moth tattoo on the mans neck which she sees as he walks off in slow motion.
  • The moth on the gift card with a butterfly symbolising resurrection on the other side.

I printed off an image of the moth planning the gift card but as I did so I noticed the sun slanting onto the wall. I held the moth up to the light and it had such a dramatic shadow. The wings of death.

Acherontia lachesis MHNT Female Nîlgîri (Tamil Nadu) Dorsal

Found on Google images

The problem was holding the moth so my hand didn’t show. I held it up with scissors. I dropped it from a height.

Some of the versions that didn’t work. As you can see the moth is washed out under the torch light and you can see my hand in the other picture.


Eventually I used the ornamental flowers. As I set it up I happened to move the torch and the shadow extended upwards with the moth. This was the shot I needed.


I removed the shot of the rose being cut and replaced with the moth. It’s very ominous as the thunder strikes. I sent it to my tutor who am I waiting to hear back from.

Here is the finished version –

Assignment Three – ChloeClik from ChloeClik on Vimeo.


  • The moth does look quite lifelike
  • The reeds add extra interest.
  • The thunder clap is ominous.


  • I wish the shot could be longer but with the time limit I would have to remove something else.
  • Perhaps it appears slightly random the sudden inclusion.

However on conferring with my tutor he said that whilst the idea was good he didn’t think it blended with the film which he felt was more documentary. As such he suggested that I leave it out though leave my analysis and reasons for doing so as above. With this in mind the final version does not include the moth.

Assignment Four – Initial Idea

And so we reach the final assignment. I feel on the edge of a void ready to jump into the next course but first I have the abyss to cross of the final assignment. Despite describing it as an abyss I am really looking forward to this. At the moment ideas are flowing and need the restriction of a blank piece of paper to harness them.

For this assignment you’ll gather documentary footage and use it to create a short documentary sequence representing a portrait of a place. You should try and capture the spirit and feel of the place as well as representing what happens there.

As I’ve worked through this unit I have come to some decisions on how I want the documentary to go.

My first idea was to film Lytham Seafront as my destination. Initially I had wondered about shooting it at the Zoo yet while sitting on the seafront the other day I realised just how many stories were being written on the seafront, small stories, big stories, from the tall windmill to the tiny cinnabar moth clinging for a grim life to a flower in the sea breeze.

Lytham is important to me. It’s where I was born and where I grew up. Whilst we lived in was for several years we returned back here when I was fourteen and I plan to spend the rest of my life here. It’s part of who I am, I love the sounds, the people, the culture, the energy, the flowers abounding in the town, the art galleries and cafes. But I wanted to focus in on a smaller part. The seafront.

My plan was to shoot Lytham from dawn until dusk. Ideally beginning with a sunrise and ending on a sunset. To focus on the nature, the people and the monument such as the iconic Lytham Windmill. As I write this the proms are taking place, the whole green has dissapeared under stages, people, and helter skeleters. I could have focused on this but I want to focus on the smaller stories. After all it is usually the small stories that produce the strongest memories.

Early Morning 

  • Dawn until dusk
  • Credits start with time-lapse of myself doing a watercolour. Picture fades to video and starts
  • Expanse of sea to set the scene.
  • Quiet and peaceful
  • Then
  • “Something in the air.” The pound of excited paws. Bedraggled dog owners. A volley of barks fill the misty air. Que dramatic music. Dogs everywhere.

Late Morning 

  • Not sure yet. Will go to seafront and analyse.


  • Busy. People with ice cream.


  • Peaceful again. Focus on nature. Cinnabar moth footage.


  • Again, unsure. Will have to research.


  • Ends on beautiful sunset from jetty.
  • Blurs to watercolour drawing.
  • Credits roll.

Some photos of Lytham seafront that I have already taken through the years.

Edit –

I decided not to go for this option after having the idea of the Tiny Cities. I felt the seafront was rather general and wanted to do something that would challenge me in every way, inspire me and create something unique.

Dreams and Movies -Cuts

I produced this mind map to explore and document my research 


Despite my scathing review of Colin McGinn’s book, the Power of Movies there was a chapter in which I found fascinating and devoured the pages with interest. Dreams on Film (I only wish the whole book had been as insightful)

“By producing visual images in narrative form with an emotional theme, movies and dreams convert those repressed and free-floating emotions into visible form, giving them shape and definition. The visual becomes a way for the visceral ti channel itself, thus allowing for release. Both film and dream serve not just to represent and express emotion but to open the emotional valves to let emotion flow freely (and perhaps safely”

McGinn wrote that he believed dreams and movies were locked together in the same category. He wrote about the fractious nature of dreams always cutting and splicing, transferring oneself to a completely new destination within a second and the mind never questioning the improbability of the dream. “I can’t be being chased by a T-Rex they don’t exist,” never seems to cross my mind as I spend most of my night running for my life.  And I was interested to read that the same is in movies. No-one even questions the fact that we see someone getting ready for work in a movie then as they walk from the frame they are suddenly there. Life does’t work like that so McGinn questions why is there not an uproar, that’s not plausible, what’s going on?

Walter Murch (who also developed the theory of the cinema screen being like a giant wide window) provided an answer


So the fact that dreams and movies both interlink in that sense prove that dreaming and watching movies is a skill innate in all of us. As McGinn says young children who can follow a narrative take it in their stride, they don’t react to the cutting and changing, a fascinating fact, why aren’t they confused? I admit it’s something I’ve never even thought about. Perhaps it is like the research undertaken at Cambridge University.

“It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a whole.”


“It doesn’t matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without a problem. This is because the human mind does not ready every letter by itself but the word as a whole.”

So perhaps this is like in films and dreams, we carry with us an innate problem solving talent to automatically fill in the gaps between elements that are not linked, the scrambled words, the cuts in movies, the spatio temporal discontinuity of dreams. It would seem so as an experiment was undertaken by Sermin Ildirar from Birbeck University of London and Stephen Schwan, Knowledge Media Research Centre in Tübungen, Germany,  to see if people who had never experienced TV before would understand film cuts. The experiment was undertaken in remote villages in Turkey and appointed local actors to act in everyday situations (so as not to confuse the villagers)

The villagers didn’t find it confusing, the shots were taken in their stride however intercutting shots, parallel action, flashing from one scene to the other and back again generated some confusion as the villagers tried to link them. So even if you haven’t watched TV before in your life your mind automatically fills in the gaps to explain everything. Which would imply that there was a connection between your dreams and watching a movie. Interesting further still I read this article here  written by the psychologist Jeffrey M Zacks, who noted that your eyes are continuously moving when you watch a movie. As an experiment he recommended filming yourself watching some footage which I did. At first I was very aware of eye movement as I was looking out for it but after a bit I relaxed into the movie and forgot about the project (being absorbed and removed from my immediate surroundings) I watched the video back and was amazed to see how my eyes flittered back and forth every second or so especially in moments of action or drama. Interestingly at the moment when the father supports his young son my head even tilted to one side something which I wasn’t aware of at the time.

“most of the eye movements we make are these jerky, ballistic movements called saccades. They take a little less than a tenth of a second and, while the eye is moving, the information that it is sending to your brain is pretty much garbage. Your brain has a nifty control mechanism that turns down the gain during these saccades so that you ignore the bad information”

Zacks goes on further to explain “ So, the signal that our brains are getting about the visual world is not like a smooth camera-pan around the environment. It’s more like a jittery music video: a sequence of brief shots of little patches of the world, stitched together. We feel like we have a detailed, continuous permanent representation of the visual details of our world, but what our visual system really delivers is a sequence of patchy pictures. Our brains do a lot of work to fill in the gaps, which can produce some pretty striking – and entertaining – errors of perception and memory.”

This would imply that we accept the transition of cuts in movies because it corresponds with the way in which we view the world. It could be an innate skill but also one which has been fuelled by our own vision. New born babies are born with huge eyes that are constantly taking in the world around them. Their eyesight teaches them about their surroundings, how to sit, crawl, how to walk and so much more. And for the first few days of their life they see upside down. So accepting cuts is pretty relaxed in comparison to this. “You may notice your newborn’s eyes wandering, as she hasn’t yet learned that she can fix her eyes on an object.”

However if we were to turn this theory on it’s head if we dream in such a fractious way and even day dream, perhaps it could be said that the reason dreams and films have so much in common is because we structure films to resemble that of our dreams.

I will conclude this study with the quote by Zacks,

“It’s not that we have learned how to deal with cuts. It’s certainly not that our brains have evolved biologically to deal with film – the timescale is way too short. Instead, film cuts work because they exploit the ways in which our visual systems evolved to work in the real world.”







Book Review – The Power of Movies


Now there is only one exercise left for the whole module I decided to upload some of the reviews about books I’d read. Starting with The Power of Movies by Colin McGinn. I decided to purchase this book after enjoying the exercise on the Mosjukhin experiment and the power of the mind in perceiving emotions not necessarily being conveyed. Nonetheless it was a disappointing read. If I had purely picked this up in a library I wouldn’t have progressed beyond chapter two. As it was for degree work I persevered and whilst there were a few interesting points (mostly from other sources) any gems of information were lost in a bulk of flat and monotonous writing.

It started well, the forward was interesting and I was intrigued to find more about the relationship between dreams and the movies but my interest and concentration waned almost instantaneously. McGinn asked so many questions it almost felt like he had no answers and was doing this purely as a way to bulk out the book, in addition to this he asked the same question over again in as many different ways as the thesaurus would allow . The entire way through I had the question ‘Why are movies so powerful’ but this answer never materialised and I realised I would be searching other sources to discover the answer.

The influx of questions would have been bearable if not for the way he consistently expressed the same view in multiple ways. For instance, he stated the fact that when we watch a movie in the cinema we know that the actor isn’t actually in the room with us, we know it’s not real and we know that the battle we are watching isn’t actually happening. And yes, it was fine to express this but to span it over two pages was pushing it. Then consistently referring to it throughout the book was unnecessary, even children can understand the characters are not actually in the cinema with them (it would be quite a palaver if they were) That said despite all this incessant repetition he failed to mention that in 1895 the Lumière brothers film (L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de la Ciotat) featuring a train arriving at the station sent the audience into mass panic. “The spectators ran out of the hall in terror because the locomotive headed right for them. They feared that it could plunge off the screen and onto them.”

I was interested to read the quote by editor and sound designer Walter Murch “The screen is not a surface, it is a magic window, sort of looking glass through which your whole body passes and becomes engaged in the action with the characters on the screen” A beautiful quote and one which really encompasses the feeling of watching a movie. It does feel like one has been transported to a new level. However, McGinn decided to elaborate on this even though more is less. The following dozen or so pages were filled with a list of things that one could look through. The obsession with the minutiae was painful. Through the density of the pages, I managed to pick up the following statements which interested me.

“The endless visual fascination of water in motion is mirrored in the fascination of the screen which indeed can create an oceanic aspect. It is as if we are seeing water through water” This is a very interesting statement and the more one thinks about it does feel like you are peering through the water. That said, I do prefer the window statement as it expresses how one feels to leave the cinema seat when watching movies and being engaged in them.

“The mid twentieth-century pessimism about the future of cinema, which foresaw a future ruled by television overlooked the perennial human urge- at least as old as language itself – to leave the home and assemble in the fire-lit dark with like-minded strangers to listen to stories” This primeval urge appealed to me, we do see faces and stories in the fires and it brings connotations of the ancient times, far back as prehistory with images of the elders gathered around the fire (such as the scene in Pochahontus” telling stories of fearsome beasts, heroic tales and moral lessons. A movie is essentially the story you see in your mind visualised on the big screen.

In the book, McGinn started exploring the more graphic aspects of movie psychology, comparing watching a movie to a voyeurism felt sickening and unnecessary. In a world of psychology dominated by Freud it seems natural to have opinions such as this but to me, they felt tasteless. A movie is not an act of voyeurism, it is to engage in a world that is not your own, to enjoy a story, celebrate or commiserate with the main characters, not like voyeurism.

What I was especially intrigued by the relationship between dreams and movies, however this wasn’t looked into until half way through the book. This though was packed with insight, the author came into his own and you could see he had great knowledge on the part and had a real passion. I decided to look at this in another  blog post though associated with dreams and movies. Here

So in conclusion of this review, I bought this book to help answer my questions but ended up having more questions than I had before and even fewer answers. Whilst there were good points they were buried deep in the recesses of the book and one had to wade through excessive statements before finding them, it had the promise to be interesting and thought provoking but his obsession with the minutiae was exhaustible and painful.



Project 16 – Other Narratives

Think of documentaries you have seen and try to identify which category the film falls into

Asking – The film maker goes into the project without preconceived ideas of the message or conclusion.

Telling – the film maker has a point to make or a message to convey

Pick a film from each category and try to draw a diagram of the narrative structure.

You may find there are multiple narrative strands. Can you identify the central narrative.

Telling – For this exercise I choose the beautiful Expository documentary ‘New Zealand Earths Mythical Islands’ the series episode was Wild Extremes.

Scan 40

I decided to design the diagram in a different way to the James Bond one. Instead I made a chronological list of each feature and a subject list, e.g. Wildlife, Botany, Geography. I also did a chart to monitor the pace of the documentary. As you can see it was rather calm with intermittent moments of drama but even tense moments were lightened by the narrators humour and you realised you weren’t going to see anything bad (Apart from the snails eating habits which I won’t go into as I can’t remove the image from my mind) Ironically the whole chart ended up looking like a diagram of the earths crust with mountains included.

This was clearly a telling documentary showing the viewer beautiful photography, the wildlife that lived there and stressing facts about each. The central narrative was clear, focusing on how animals, flora and people survive in some of the most extreme places of New Zealand. This was coupled by sub plots of how they raise a family in these conditions and the resourcefulness and evolution of these creatures such as the Blue duck family who’s home is the rapid and raging rivers of NewZealand.

Scan 41

For the scene to analyse I chose this beautiful one of Blue ducks learning to rage the rapids of their home for the first time. When you first watch it it’s a tense scene. The scene opens with drone shots of the river while the narrator informs you of the power and threat of the water. Just as you think this is going to be a narration of waterfalls he says ‘This is no place to bring up a family’ and a family of small Blue ducks swim into view. Immediately the scene is tense. This is reinforced by the close ups of the fluffy little ducklings looking so cute and innocent you can only feel dread. Mother duck leads the way and the ducklings gather nervously before taking the plunge into the waters.

Wide angle shots highlight the extreme contrast and defencelessness of the ducklings. The music is fairly light and expresses the emotion and energy well. Then the narrator says ‘it almost looks like fun,’ it’s a gentle expression but coupled with the sudden sound of a violin it sets your hair on end. The mother duck looks to the side and it is hauntingly reminiscent of the scene in Bambi where his mother stares to one side at the danger just before he loses her. Extreme close ups of the waterfall fill the frame and the diegetic sound overwhelms the music. “Sudden storms can cause flash floods. which can dislodge boulders let alone tiny balls of feathers.” As he finishes his statement the ducklings gather fearfully staring out of the frame nervously ready to jump into the rapids. Wide angles are used again. There is a moment where a wave seems to engulf the family but they surface as the narrator says,’their giant feet ungainly on land are perfect in the torrent’ The narrator has been playing with the viewer the entire time and as the scene comes to a close the music is triumphant. The ducklings power through the water scrambling onto a rock.

The narrator continues, “Their feet are perfect in the torrent, allowing this violent river to become…their playground.” The scene ends on a stunning wide aperture shot of one of the little ducklings drying their wings off, following the rule of thirds in stunning colour.


I found it quite hard to find a documentary that was asking something. I remembered this documentary we watched about the friendship between a man, Dean and a wild orphaned dolphin, JoJo aptly titled, My Dolphin and Me.

I watched it again charting the narration and realised that throughout there was the question of what was going to happen to JoJo. I needed to structure it in a different way so drew a rectangle and filled it in. Reading it from left to right it was put under categories. Meeting JoJO. The Danger from boats. Danger from humans. Fighting to protect her and finally the conclusion of the present. It was a really nice documentary, mixed up with home videos from Dean, re-constructions and footage of Dean speaking now. Also photos were used to tell the story.

Jojo - ChloeClik

The scene I chose was the one in which JoJo the dolphin crashed the dive lesson Dean was teaching. Again I structured it in a different way this time choosing to reference what type of shot each was. As there wasn’t enough footage from Dean to create a whole programme it was mixed up with photos, interviews and recreation videos and I have noted which is used and where. The notes are read from left to right.

The central narrative of this scene is clearly narrating the story of JoJo crashing the lesson but there are underlying messages such as wondering how things will turn out with a wild dolphin interacting with people and any repercussions. Every single scene adds something to the programme and in this case the final shot motivates the next story “But when his search for human interaction went beyond Dean and his students, Grace bay suddenly became a dangerous place.”


Compare your diagrams with the other students. Do you notice any patterns? 


Our charts both tend to follow the same pattern, we both use colour and wavy lines. We both describe each scene in chronological order but I didn’t use the Three Act structure which in hindsight I should have.

I followed the narration of the animal documentary listing each category and with My Dolphin and Me mapped the friendship between Dean and JoJo, the adversity and struggle to protect him and the conclusion.

I liked how Ashley wrote about the man Pat Campbell, how he was introduced and his thoughts and feelings towards BP


It’s really interesting to see how each diagram from each student differs so much. I would say looking at mine it represents the students character. I am very artistic, I love drawing and this reflects it. Also the way in which the story was written and the many stages.

Project 16 – Documentary Research

The last exercise was to do with following the structure of Hollywood type movies or those with a three act structure. This exercise focuses on documentaries. We seem to be having a documentary week in our family as there are a lot on TV at the moment so I found myself studying and analysing at ten at night. Bizzarely my mind seems to be quite active then so I made the most of it.

There are several types of documentaries the course tell us.

True life stories – these are documentaries which often include acted reconstructions of the event such as ‘Jane was walking to work when the tsunami struck’ then showing Jane looking alarmed with a voice over. They usually focus on human interest stories.

Investigative reports – such as the Horizon programmes looking into certain topics of all genres. For instance Are E-Cigarettes more harmful than standard cigarettes? There are examples of peoples stories, clinical trials, debates and in this example the presenter even tried E-Cigarettes for several weeks to see the repercussions on his body. There never really is a final outcome though. Such as in this where they didn’t really know the answer and would have to trial it for much longer. But these reports are very informative, fascinating and contain an abundance of information.

Observational Documentary – At first I wasn’t too sure as to what this type of documentary was. I found this quote though “Observational documentaries attempt to simply and spontaneously observe lived life with a minimum of intervention…The films aimed for immediacy, intimacy, and revelation of individual human character in ordinary life situations.”  This made me think of the documentary Child of our Time, a huge project following 25 children who were all born at the turn of the century from birth onwards. “The aim of the series is to build up a coherent and scientifically accurate picture of how the genes and the environment of growing children interact to make a fully formed adult” It’s a fascinating series and would be also described as both a telling and a showing documentary but mostly showing.

After reading the course I did some research to discover other types of documentary.

It turns out the concept of types of documentaries was formed by the American Theorist Bill Nichols who created six modes of documentaries.

Poetic. Observational.Participatory. Expository. Reflexive. Performative.

The Poetic Documentary

“Instead of using traditional linear continuity to create story structure, the poetic documentary filmmaker arrives at its point by arranging footage in an order to evoke an audience association through tone, rhythm, or spatial juxtaposition.”

Poetic documentaries are usually those that have some importance to the presenter, film makers or characters.

As the name suggests, they are rather poetic creations, the photography is artistic and creative and music is used to enhance mood and emotion. There is no continuity editing. I didn’t know there was a name for this type of documentary so admit it took a bit of time watching some to determine their main features. I would say they are the equivalent of a song in film terms, showing an insight into the world in beautiful imagery and rhymic quality, there is no linear narrative but songs and poems can be used to enhance feelings.

attempt to create a feeling rather than a truth.

Observational documentaries.

These are the atypical, fly on the wall where the filmmakers react to the moment without prior planning or preparation. It often feels exactly like a fly on the wall that takes off buzzing judging by the shaky footage in scenes of motion. The viewer can feel the energy of the scene. Used in programmes such as Catfish, Big Brother and in a spin off type, The Only Way is Essex.

However it is also used in more intelligent documentaries such as nature programmes, though I wouldn’t call it unscripted, filmmakers must react to their current situation which is why it is in this category.


A documentary where the film maker engages directly with the interviewee. It feels more raw and less scripted.


Probably one of the most common documentary devices. and when one thinks of a documentary it usually is this format. The viewer is given information and the footage proves this. The viewer can form their own opinion but as the narrator is already doing this it is more often that not one to relax with.

It uses photos, films and objects  to document true life events such as in Coast. Some feel however that they only present one version of the truth and often one sided.


The film maker engages with their subjects in this type of documentary thus paving the way for the narrative.. It can be seen as a making of, a behind the scenes. In Nature documentaries it is now common to include ten minutes or so of how a certain part of the documentary was filmed. It provides an insight for behind the scenes and how it was filmed.

A powerful example is Stories We Tell


Where the film maker is the main character. My friend Patrick Corr’s movies could be classed in this mode. The film maker directly engages with the viewer and you are shown a glimpse into their world whether they are climbing a mountain or exploring incredible new worlds.

It was really fascinating investigating into all the different modes of documentary. It took quite a while to watch the videos and get a feeling of what it takes but I’m glad I did.