Chain Camera

The Chain Camera project was featured as part of the Storyville series of documentaries. It took place in Marshall high school in Los Angeles beginning in August 1999, where ten senior-year students at a time were given camcorders to film their lives for a week and then pass on to another student to do the same. The chain camera project worked in a similar way to a chain letter in that the cameras were circulated around the senior year for a year. Over 12 months film footage was collected from 4192 students from 41 different ethnic backgrounds that captured the reality of teenage life through their eyes in their multi-ethnic environment.

The documentary showed some of the video diaries of some of the students. They showed very personal accounts of their lives, showing their homes and families and things that are important to them. One of the diary entries was extremely personal where a girl spoke about her troubled childhood. Others covered issues such as drugs, racism, sexuality, relationships, illness and disability. The students seemed comfortable to speak freely in front of the camera about these difficult issues. It seems this form of visual storytelling not only allows the storyteller to make their story truly personal but it really invites the viewer into their personal lives, more so than just reading about these characters would. It was also interesting to see that 85% of the students involved in the project went on into further education. This links into the project that I’m doing asking students in university education to let us into their world by taking their own images on a disposable camera and recording their stories on audio. It’s interesting to see this being done with video cameras here in a different way.

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