Filming as being, images as evidence

Jesse Weaver Shipley


When is film taken as evidence of the past and of truths in the world and when does the content become less significant than the practice of making images itself? The meaning of moving images change as the material and cultural logics and technologies of image production and circulation evolve. In legal and journalistic public discourse, recorded images are meant to be empirical evidence that can hold people accountable for their actions. Video camcorders and then mobile phone cameras democratized recording equipment which in many cases revealed abuses of power. But mobile technologies for recording and circulating film—as well as shifting genres for interpreting them—have also reshaped how audiences understand the veracity of what they see and hear. In shifting attention from content to context, cellphone filming becomes about circulation itself. Rather than a means for gathering evidence (epistemic) it is a sign of presence (ontologic). This has implications for legal cases of sex-gender and racial violence when visual evidence, rather than leading to successful prosecutions, creates defensive outrage amongst the powerful.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/724090