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04-26-2011, 09:45 PM - 1 Like   #1
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My God! 'Independent Lens'-- Mark Hogencamp

I just watched PBS's Independent Lens episode entitled Marwencol, about Mark Hogencamp. and it blew me away.

What kind of a man creates images like these out of dolls:



Here's his story in a nutshell, and it's worth the read--it involves photography:

"On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked by five young men in a Kingston, New York, parking lot. The assault left the ex-navyman, carpenter, and showroom designer in a coma for nine days; he emerged with brain damage that initially made it impossible for him to walk, eat, or speak. State-sponsored physical and occupational therapy helped him regain basic motor skills. But after less than a year he discovered that without insurance, he could no longer afford it. Determined "not to let those five guys win," Hogancamp turned to art as a therapeutic tool. It wasn't the first time: Before the attack, he had filled sketchbooks with intense and accomplished drawings relating to his struggles with alcoholism. But now, a shaky right arm and impaired hand-eye coordination thwarted his efforts.

Frustrated but resolute, Hogancamp reached further back into his creative past. He began by revisiting his childhood hobbies of collecting toy soldiers and building painted models. Commandeering a pile of scrap wood left behind by a contractor, he constructed "Marwencol," a fictional Belgian town built to one-sixth scale in the backyard of his home. He populated it with action figures and dolls representing Word War II personages like Gen. George Patton, as well as stand-ins for himself, his friends, and his family. Finally, he dusted off an old camera and began using it to capture staged events ranging from pitched battles between occupying German and American forces to catfights in a town bar. Through these exercises, Hogancamp sought to regain the capabilities that he recalled having had before the attack. Hogancamp's photographs first appeared in Esopus 5 (Fall 2005). Since their publication, he has added several structures to the town and, armed with a new camera, he has been busily documenting a series of new narratives (stills from which will appear at White Columns for the first time). All of these images evidence Hogancamp's desire to conflate the historical and the personal, the specific and the universal. While he might view them as a means to a continuing recovery, it is impossible not to recognize - in their painstaking execution, obsessive attention to detail, and undeniable emotional resonance - the unadulterated vision of an artist coming into his own."

Here's the main web site where you can see huge gallery, plus video/animation trailers, and where you can buy the DVD:

Marwencol - Official Site - Buy the DVD here

We talk about photography serving certain therapeutic needs for us, but after viewing this film, I think you'll agree that this is the most unique merger of photography as therapy ever shown.

It's simply remarkable, and inspiring.

04-26-2011, 09:53 PM   #2
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Here's a cool one of an SS officer getting hanged by the women of the town:

04-26-2011, 10:11 PM   #3
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Awesome stuff, Ira! Thanks!

Damn, I may even have to watch TV now.
04-26-2011, 10:43 PM   #4
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I really love that photo!

04-27-2011, 02:44 AM   #5
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The film is a must see, and this is pretty interesting:

If he bought a new little Jeep, for example, it did him no good to have a shiny off-the-showroom-floor vehicle--he needed it to look like it had been to war. So, he would place 4 heavily-armed characters in it (because they comforted him to the possibility he feared that he could be attacked again), and dragged it on a stick 2 miles back and forth to the nearest convenience store to "age" it.

A professional photographer (Dave something) who lived along this route would see him off in the distance performing this ritual on the country road from time to time, until his interest was peaked and he drive off one day to question him about it. (Mark would often wear WWII regalia as well.)

Well, it was Dave who "discovered" him, and was shocked to learn that Mark didn't use a light meter because the meter in his 35mm SLR was broken. So, if shots were way over- or under-exposed, he would just set up the shoot again. Dave was also shocked to learn that Mark had accumulated thousands of photos--and always threw away the negatives. He just wanted the prints.

Ironically, and it's my speculation here, his earlier pre-Dave shots are the best, because Dave helped him "move up" to digital for his new camera. The more modern lens lost much of the war-vintage quality of the older lens.

So, when you see the episode, the photos there, on the whole, seem way superior to many of the ones I'm now browsing on the web site because of their vintage quality.

And no--I couldn't tell what SLR he was originally using.
04-27-2011, 07:20 AM   #6
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Thanks for the heads up Ira! I'll set my PVR to catch that episode. I think my PBS station is a few days late on most broadcasts so hopefully it's still on (I just caught the "Waste Land" episode of Independant Lens about artist/photographer Vik Muniz a few days ago).

Pat
04-27-2011, 07:42 AM   #7
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You can watch it online.

Imagination Unlimited...But Only 27 Barbies | Independent Lens | PBS Video

And the interview with the director

The Mysterious World of 'Marwencol' | PBS NewsHour | PBS Video
04-27-2011, 08:08 AM   #8
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Boriscleto ... Thanks, but PBS only allows me to watch the preview (most US networks block or limit their online content outside the US).

Pat

04-27-2011, 09:35 AM   #9
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You can't watch the whole thing in the US either, just the preview or the trailer. I didn't realize Independent Lens didn't have whole episodes online, some PBS programs do (Frontline, NOVA, Nature, etc.)
04-27-2011, 10:00 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by ve2vfd Quote
Thanks for the heads up Ira! I'll set my PVR to catch that episode. I think my PBS station is a few days late on most broadcasts so hopefully it's still on (I just caught the "Waste Land" episode of Independant Lens about artist/photographer Vik Muniz a few days ago).

Pat
Waste Land was incredible too!!!

Unfortunately, I just checked the listings for my local PBS stations, and it seems that Independent Lens episodes aren't repeated--maybe 6 months later or so, but like not within the same week. And I wanted my wife to see Waste Land and THIS one..

I don't have a DVR, but I have to get one and remember to program every show in this series.
04-27-2011, 10:32 AM   #11
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Thanks Ira! I just created a series record on the old DVR.
04-27-2011, 10:38 AM   #12
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Great info, Ira.
Thanks for the heads up. I will be looking for it on repeat.
Amazing stuff indeed.
04-27-2011, 10:41 AM   #13
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Yeah, I watched pieces of that while washing dishes-- fascinating!
04-27-2011, 08:17 PM   #14
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Fortunately it's on my PBS stations 2-3 times (at really weird times!) in the next few weeks so I can catch it on my PVR.

Ira ... I thought waste-land was quite interesting on many levels.

I never knew how much I needed a PVR until I bought one a few months ago! Between the PVR and getting eastern and western feeds for all my channels I find I seldom miss out on show I like.
04-28-2011, 06:26 PM   #15
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Just watched it. A remarkable piece of work. A must see for any photographer.

And yes, I could see what SLR he was using;-) But not which lens.
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