Fiction, it’s often said, can reveal a reality that factual material can only tackle superficially. Creating a purely objective account of an event is not only an impossible task, but one that is not always sought, and the photojournalism/documentary film community have begun to use fiction to their advantage.
A recent festival in London for documentary filmmakers, Crossing the Line, took this as its starting point, examining the extent to which documentaries use fiction to more accurately convey the underlying truths behind their films. This newly blurred boundary between fact and fiction has resulted in the creation of a new generation of films, such as Nick Broomfield’s Ghosts.
Kathrin Kur’s pursuit of fiction is a different one, however. She has used, in this series of images recently exhibited at Photofusion, documentary photography to expose the source of certain fictions – the unreal constructed world that forms the backbone of much of our common reality. She went behind the scenes of television studios and film sets, used to film news, TV dramas and motion pictures, revealing what is hidden from the cameras.
The glowing green walls at some unnamed studio, the rows of robotic lights occupying every available inch of ceiling in “Studio D” and the motion capture studio resembling a bright red basketball court: so much steel, mirror and vibrant colour that the landscape appears to be completely devoid of the human. A fictional landscape indeed. Kur’s point of view, is also one that is unfamiliar, in that most images are taken from a high vantage point either looking down or across the length of the space.
While the images are large format and quite detailed, Kur does not attempt to provide an all-encompassing look at the industry, rather a cross section of the various guises a studio or set can take. The sumptuously printed, glossy images are in a way more about art than documentary and that’s not just because of the hefty price tag. Perhaps her point would have been made clearer with more images but one cannot help to think that while they are documenting, these images themselves are a fiction, in that they are landscapes that most will probably never see (in a similar vein to Simon Norfolk’s Super Computers series).
Documentary has a lot to gain from fiction and while fiction may not necessarily welcome the attention from documentary it is still quite a profound relationship that photographers and film-makers alike will continue to explore.