Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Third person objectivity... and yet one should 'Never talk to strangers?'

I met somebody on a recent visit to New York, who when she heard that I create Video Biographies of 'ordinary' people had a very innocent question to ask.

"Why would I ask you to interview my father when you've never met him and don't know a thing about him?"

Point taken. And that's a good question, you have got to admit!

But that apparent 'handicap' is what especially works in my favor. Because I had never met her father, I would not assume certain things about him. I would not pre-determine what the important stages in his life were and my questions would not be crafted with the baggage of that assumption. I would not decide on my own what I wanted him to talk most about - or seek answers to questions about him that had dogged me an entire lifetime. My interview of him would not sub-consciously become about me. Instead, I would begin at the beginning, with a blank slate... with the objectivity that only a third-person can carry.

Of course, the interview would not be conducted in ignorance - without any background information to him! Nope, the way it would work is that by the time it was the day of the actual interview, we would have spoken a few times... giving him the opportunity to become comfortable with a). me and b). the idea of talking about his life in a question-answer style conversation on video. And most often than not, when we finally did sit down for the interview, it would feel like the most natural thing in the world... to talk about one's life with an 'absolute stranger'! There would be a need to fill in the blanks, supply the details, and make an effort to remember... so that the conversation is easily accessible to anyone who watches it (read future generations), instead of being an inside secret between two people in the know in the present.


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