A paradox of cinematic sight : exploring the ramifications of high-speed digital cinematography in science & natural history documentary
Smith, Richard Francis Xavier.
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The immense popularity of science and natural history documentaries ensures the genres' influential role in shaping the viewer' relationship with the world. Many scholars and scientists have critiqued various aspects of the genre's overall construction as contributing to the maintenance of the separation between humans and nature. Beyond these structural critiques, there seems to be a more fundamental ideological consequence resulting from the relationship between the cinematic techniques used in creating science and natural history programming and the audience. The genre's dependence on new technologies of "seeing" is indicative of the underlying epistemology of the medium and suggests the importance of understanding ideological consequences of the cinematic apparatus itself. One of these new ways of "seeing" that is particularly useful for exploring the relationship between the cinematic apparatus and the audience is high-speed digital photography. An investigation of the historical origins of both the photograph and the cinema will show how high-speed photography is representative of the deeply ingrained epistemological foundations of these pictorial technologies. Photography's origins as a manifestation of scientific objectivity position the medium uniquely as a popularizer of scientific and factual information. Exploring the dynamic between the scientific profession and the lay public is integral to teasing apart how the genre of science and natural history documentary film affects the viewer. Photographic technologies privileged status as an unfiltered representation of physical truth lies at the center of the development of positivist science and the popularization of science and nature. Its privileged status derives from the denial of human subjectivity and the emphasis of mechanically mediated representations of the world. The cinematic apparatus' techno-scientific origins and its implicit promise to supplement our deficient perceptual abilities paradoxically functions to distance the viewer from the world it so acutely represents.