Roger Hallas Lecture

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Roger Hallas Lecture

  1. Friday, October 30, 2015 3:00 p.m.
Image of Robert Hallas

The title of this lecture is “A Medium Seen Otherwise: Photography and Documentary Film”


The act of filming photography, of framing one medium through its perceived other, necessarily draws attention to the question of medium. While scholars have analyzed this self-reflexive practice within narrative and experimental cinema, little scholarly attention has been paid to documentary film’s engagement with photography. Documentary films, especially those with historical subjects, abound with photographic evidence. Moreover, photographers themselves have increasingly become the subject of contemporary documentary film. Ever since Willard van Dyke’s The Photographer (1948) about Edward Weston, this subgenre has not only employed specific narrative components (looking for the image, taking it, processing it and exhibiting the finished picture), it has also exhibited a tendency to imitate the aesthetic style of the documented photographer in its filmed footage. Through analysis of documentaries on the photographers James Nachtwey and Edward Burtynsky, Hallas explains how such narrative and aesthetic strategies of cinema illuminate a fuller understanding of the event of photography, to use Ariella Azoulay’s phrase, than the medium can itself produce.


Roger Hallas is an Associate Professor of English at Syracuse University. He is the author of Reframing Bodies: AIDS, Bearing Witness and the Queer Moving Image (Duke, 2009) and co-editor of The Image and the Witness: Trauma, Memory and Visual Culture (Wallflower, 2007). He is the co-director of the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival and was director of SU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Program from 2011–2015. In 2011, he was also named a Judith Greenberg Seinfeld Distinguished Faculty Fellow.


Professor Hallas is giving this lecture as one of the Inaugural Lectures in the Center for Documentary Research and Practice's 2015–2016 series.