due April 12

Shoot a 30-60 seconds Doc Postcard. It should be uncut, with no text on screen, no graphics, music or special effects except if they are part of the scene you observe.

As any good postcard it should have some sort of revelation, not necessarily intellectual, could be emotional or visual: an insight, an emotional event, (something that changes the character), or a visual rhyme.

Post it on YouTube and then embedded in a post on the website, so we can see them all together quicker.  Check the following categories: Your Name and Doc Postcard.

The themes are: GRAVITY and/or POWER (but feel free to do your own theme)

After we come back from our shoot on location we’ll watch them.

Next class we will be shooting observational documentaries “on location” then reconvening in class at 11.30 in room 242 of the Library to look at footage and discuss Final Projects.

at 10:00AM

Group 1 (Seth)
Meet outside in front of library


Group 2 (Luca)
Meet at Prospects Park stop on Q train

Group 3 (Irina)
In front of Apple store 123 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center station)

Group 4 (Mobina)
the bench next to DiFaras on the corner of E.15th street and Avenue J. It’s right near the Avenue J subway stop for the Q train and also accessible via the B6 or B11 bus.

Faculty, join us at any location, if you want.

due February 1

It was great to kick off our semester together today! I’m really looking forward to learning from and with all of you, faculty and students alike.

I wanted to send an update about this coming week. To engage the history of documentary as a form of advocacy, we will discuss two readings: excerpts from Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives (1890), and a long poem by Muriel Rukeyser, “Book of the Dead” (1938). I have divided the Riis reading into two separate PDFs–read as much as you can (about 50 pages total). And please read all of the Rukeyser poem (about 30 pages). These readings are in a folder, “Readings for February 1,” located in our shared google folder.


In addition, please take a look at some of Riis’s photographs. Riis is considered one of the first documentary photographers in the U.S., and he famously delivered slide lantern lectures of his early photographs to audiences in an effort to generate momentum for housing reform among New York City’s wealthy residents. You can find digital archives his photographs at the Museum of the City of New York and the International Center of Photography. Please visit one of those sites and select 2-3 photographs that you would like to discuss in class, when I’ll make time for you to share your selections with another member of the class (on your phone, or laptop, etc.). When looking at the photographs, ask yourself: what catches your eye? Why? How are people and places represented? What are the major features of composition—shape, structure, lighting, angle? Keep in mind that the “truths” photographs hold are more slippery than we typically think. We often think of photographs as mechanical or transparent records of reality. However, photographs can be staged or altered, and like other kinds of “texts,” such as poems and fiction, photos present particular points of view, and need to be interpreted (their meaning coheres in the viewer). Riis was expressly trying to persuade his audience; how do his images participate in that project? What and how do they make you feel?

If you have any questions, please drop me a line! I look forward to talking with you next Friday about Riis and Rukeyser, photography and poetry, documentary advocacy and its problems.

Prof. Joseph Entin

What is documentary?

What forms can it take, and what can it do? What is the relationship between documentary, truth, and fiction, especially in an era of “fake” news? These are some of the questions this co-taught course will pursue. Documentary looks different depending on what questions we ask about it. We will examine documentary as a form of advocacy, as a mode of community-based participatory media, as an avenue of autobiographical expression, as a way of engaging with history, and as a way of creating empathy. Throughout, we will address the relation of documentary film, photography, and writing to authenticity, evidence, and social responsibility.

If you are interested in documentary, in the relationships between representations, truth, and fiction and want to grow/challenge your creative and intellectual abilities in conversation with other like-minded students and professors, this course is for you!