John Price is an independent filmmaker who has produced experimental documentaries, dance and diary films since 1986. His love of analog photography led naturally to extensive alchemical experimentation with a wide range of motion picture film emulsions and camera formats. He has received production support from The National Film Board, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto and his work has been exhibited at festivals and galleries internationally.
Memory and Optimism
As a documentary cinematographer the projects I shoot for other directors often involve pointing a camera at people that I have never met before. The most critical part of the job is not about making things look good, it’s about making the situation as comfortable as possible so that the individual who is being photographed feels okay about sharing their feelings. In these exchanges I’m trying to strip away the artifice so that what gets communicated feels human and real. It’s not journalism and it’s not reality television and it’s not an advertisement. Those that perform like it is come across like actors. They become ‘characters’. The projects that I take on though are mostly trying to humanize rather than fictionalize their subject. As such most of the people who appear try really hard to present an emotionally authentic version of themselves under very abnormal conditions (ie with a camera aimed at them). The generosity of these people has been a gift. Their openness has reinforced a sense that most humans are essentially good. That we share the same essential needs and want to avoid suffering. In the work of observing others I feel immensely privileged and aware of how incredibly arbitrary life is. I try to communicate this sense of optimism and gratitude to my children when I come home to the separate universe that I have created with my partner but alas there are such strong forces clogging things up. The internet. The 66 years of YouTube content uploaded every day. My kids gobble it up. A lot of it is ‘documentary’ – peoples home movie moments. But I’m not sure how much hope or magic these contain. I found a video on-line a couple of years ago that helped me fix the furnace in my basement but I’m guessing that most are not put out there to stimulate self reflection or as a counterweight to all of the bad news.
The work in this program lies in between. It’s not like the formal documentaries I shoot for other people and it can’t live on the internet. It’s an assembly of rolls of 16mm film that were shot over the last decade in Detroit and Toronto on whatever film stock that was close at hand. It’s a loose personal anthropology of meaningful people and places recorded alchemically on silver salt and color dyes. And somehow there is swirling magic in the way the material expresses these memories. The form invites a different kind of remembering. It invites meditation.