The Dramatized Image

Guest Blogger Evan Johnson

“Truth has to be made vivid, interesting; it has to be ‘dramatized’…”
– documentary filmmaker Trinh Minh-Ha

Minh-Ha speaks of the need to dramatize truth in documentary film. Having recently viewed her film Surname Viet, Given Name Nam (1989), I thought about the ways in which this dramatization of truth might apply to photography. In the film, Minh-Ha adapts a highly reflexive technique in telling the story of Vietnamese women before and after the war. She stages readings of first-person accounts with actresses and juxtaposes text and spoken word on the screen; all in order to reveal the constructive nature of the filmmaking process.

Although Kathryn’s new series “The Great Divide” is a far cry from post-modern feminist documentary, Minh-Ha’s claim has an interesting connection to Kathryn’s new work. The photographs in the series all engage in a “dramatization” of the truth. Through the Argus and pinhole camera hybrid, Kathryn transforms our everyday surroundings into something unexpected and appealing. The railing 9th Street bridge becomes a shadowy ladder. The awning over the Pavilion transforms into biomorphic shadow on the ground. The visual truth of our everyday experience is invigorated and transformed through the camera. It encourages us to question our aesthetic experience of our surroundings and to look for that “dramatic” element.