In the “age of the image,” when convergence culture and the imperium of visualism have voided social life, bodies, and experiences from reference to the real, when designer images perform their own presence above and apart from the phenomenal world, what is the place for visual anthropology and ethnographic film, disciplines born together with film technology and guided by the goal of studying and using images to explore human nature? In this presentation I trace the tropological development of ethnographic film and discuss current trends that purport to solve the conundrum by either embracing designer images or searching for the aura of the original. I argue that social relevance and integrity are better guides to engage our senses, affect, and mind, and to contest and see through the “maya” of visuality.
Wilton Martinez, Ph.D., is a Peruvian filmmaker and visual anthropologist. Wilton has been making documentaries since 1984 and has over twenty years of experience as a visual anthropology consultant with educational and development organizations in various countries. In addition to Transnational Fiesta, he has produced films on topics such as oral history, cultural identity, indigenous knowledge, transnationalism, music, dance and performance among indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Andean regions, Sri Lanka, the U.S., etc. Wilton is the founding president of the Center for Visual Anthropology of Peru. For more on Dr. Martinez, see his professional website: EthnoVisions.net