Rebecca Baron Uses Photography on her ‘Neighbors’

On Thursday, Jan. 20, the UC Irvine Film and Video Center, in cooperation with the Department of Art History, screened two documentaries about photography.
The first, Rebecca Baron’s ‘How Little We Know of Our Neighbors,’ traced the history of the use of photography in surveillance, particularly in one project that began in 1937 called the Mass Observation Movement. This project recruited observers to monitor ordinary people in everyday places and record even the most minute details, such as recording the ratio of wet spittoons per person there were in a bar.
The film followed the progress of camera technology and its diminishing size. This advancement allowed more stealth in photography, inevitably facilitating voyeurism and other invasions of privacy. A large portion of the film included candid video of random public places and people.
Award-winning filmmaker Rebecca Baron spoke and answered audience questions after the film.
‘I wasn’t trying to reenact what the Mass Observation Movement was doing, but I wanted to explore using the camera in other ways,’ Baron said. She went on to explain that she never concealed the camera when filming.
‘Most of the time, people didn’t ask me not to film. Usually they would start performing for the camera, which is funny because I don’t like being filmed [without consent]’ Baron said.
Baron also offered her critique on the use of cameras for surveillance, pointing out an example of a young boy’s kidnapping, which surveillance cameras did nothing to prevent, nor did they aid in identifying the culprits.
‘It is so pervasive and so invasive that I don’t think it’s worth the tradeoff.