How Art changed news, and then was dismissed

Art, video journalism

How Art changed news, and then was dismissed

How Art changed news, and then was dismissed

‘it’s a bit arty’.

The bomb that exploded ripped through the market place as the injured lay on the ground. The journalist who shot the scene is seen reminiscing. as the scene flips back and forth –  a simultaneous narrative. A shot of a chair looking onto the horizon plays with time and location.

I disagreed with the panelist, a television news veteran, who was in effect dismissing the story’s news value. It’s not news if somehow its narrative does not follow a simple logic, and the visual value is striking.

It’s strange that our mode of thinking incorporates atomised, discursive, dissonant views, but that news production somehow has naturalised a thinking model that simplifies the world into black and white. It works though!

The Canon 5D MKII’s cinematic fidelity is too much for some news executive.

This scenario goes back years.

In the 1930s and 40s celebrated Dutch documentary and filmmaker Joris Ivens systematically removed beautiful shots from his documentary Misery in the Borinage (1933) because it got in the way of the story. Ivens said, ‘Our aim was to prevent agreeable photographic effects distracting the audience from the pleasant truths we were showing’.

News is real and therefore is grim, and as such revels in a dirty ‘documentary feel’ where the lens or practitioner seemingly plays no part in interpreting the footage. It’s the reason that shaky mobile footage of a catastrophe carries verisimilitude to the viewer and why Director Paul Greengrass can exploit cinema fiction as perceived verisimilitude through his agitated film look.

In the 19th century and just before realist paintings, the popularity of paintings captured great news events, specifically focusing on the elites and monarchs, or otherwise commissioned for them and the delights of that social class.

Then three extraordinary bombshells hit Art which would form a mushroom cloud over Western society, in particular, and radiate further across the world. It’s captured in this image from painter David Hockney, who matches how paintings and lens-based photography were once bedfellows before they departed ways.


Rejected by powerful executive bodies who controlled what was shown in art galleries, painters became fed up and threw down their easels.

One of them, Gustave Courbet led the charge against the establishment inventing something called realism and creating pieces, such as The Stone Breakers and The Artists Studio.

The ‘news men’ so to speak were outraged.

At about that time, as noted too in David Hockney’s documentary on his Tate exhibition, paint became mobile in small tubes. The artist could freely move around and capture anything they wanted.

And then in the late 1900s, the shockwave! In his book Art and Physics, Leonard Shalin captures the rift between a new group of painters who were also frustrated with the Academy des Baux, the grandees, the ‘Newsmen’ who approved art works. This new group went rogue.

They called themselves impressionist and rather than, like the classic painters who painted likenesses of their subjects, they had different ideas. Horizons, proportions, and true likenesses were subverted.

The painting reflected what they thought. It was their impression. The pioneers included Monet, Manet and Cezanne, and would later spawn Dadism, Cubism and Futurism.

Classic paintings of likenesses didn’t disappear and they’re still strong draws today, but a century ago the idea that the professional interpretation of the artist mattered in picking out nuances or accentuating specific points did not matter.

Just like today. Can you see the similarities with videojournalism, 3D filming with  Zero Point, created for the Oculus Rift 3D headset?

Impressionistic works stand today as some of the most sought after and expensive works. Professionalism and a unique styled perspective provided an anchor point for the population to see beyond the ‘story’ as traditionalist believe it should be told, Shinning a light on what is missed in standardisation.

History,  generations looking back on this era, may observe has regenerated and repeated itself. Below is ‘Words in the Dark’, a film I Made speaking at Newsxchange.