The imagery in this project comes from video clips shot over the course of the semester. The text is excerpted from the clip’s audio and transcribed. For clips with no spoken words, environmental sounds appear in brackets. 

Across 21 still images from 10 different scenes, Documentary Stills experiments with an alternative mode of video editing, designed to allow for interpretive viewership. The seemingly arbitrary sequence of equally arbitrary static imagery and text puts the onus on the viewer to derive meaning from the work. 

As described by Sergei Eisenstein in reference to cinematic montage, the positioning of disparate imagery together has the potential to create what he deems the “third thing”: a new meaning beyond that of the respective adjoining parts. In this project, the blending of textual and photographic montage lends itself to a multimodal experience of Eistenstein’s “third thing.” 

The formal ambiguity of the work forces the viewer to place each shot and scene in temporal relation, narrating for themself the progression of events. The text, whether rambling or succinct in form, provides further possibilities for interpretation; the words may refer directly to the still’s visual content or allude to something unseen. 

The work also poses the question of what still imagery does for documentary art that video cannot (and vice versa). Does the still essentialize a moment, or, conversely, does the video stifle one’s personal imaginative analysis? In this case, the reduction of information lends itself to a creative form of truth-making, empowering the viewer’s subjectivity.