IMAGE Super8 Camera by thomas william

About Writing with a Camera

The site is currently a work in progress and is expected to be relatively complete by the start of the Spring 2023 semester.  I welcome your suggestions for additional content and feedback on improving the site via the contact form.

This site has been developed as a resource intended primarily for my students. However, it should also interest anyone learning about visual storytelling using a camera. Resources cover the courses that I teach at Northeastern University, including ARTD 2380 Video Basics,  ARTD 3480 Video: Sound + Image, MSCR 1230 Introduction to Film (Media) Production, ARTD 2100 Narrative Basics, and ARTE 2500 Writing with a Camera (part of the Latitude Zero: Ecuador and the Galápagos Dialogue of Civilizations travel program that is anticipated to run again during Summer I, 2023).


In 1948 Alexandre Astruc, a filmmaker and theorist, suggested the notion of caméra-stylo (camera pen) in his essay “The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Caméra-Stylo” [pdf]. He imagines that cinema will eventually break free of the demands of classical narrative and images and will become a flexible means of writing with the same expressive power, complexity, and subtly of written language. Astruc also envisioned a distribution system with “projectors for everyone,” anticipating what we experience with YouTube and other online video services today.

Today, writing with a camera has yet to achieve the expressiveness Astruc envisioned, but the trend toward its realization is palpable. Astruc would have loved our contemporary media landscape, especially artist videos, music videos, and personal essays challenging traditional film grammar. Astruc wrote that the future of cinema would revolve around the director as an auteur, which was an essential idea behind the French New Wave. Fast-forwarding to the present: personal videos shared on Vimeo and YouTube and the renaissance of television series on subscription channels like Netflix and Amazon Prime have become the dominant narrative forms of a new generation.

Astruc’s idea of film as a language independent of literature provides this site’s theoretical and historical foundation. We are the midst of a cultural transformation in which the moving image is becoming more personal, a form of visual writing; we are both media producers and consumers as we enter a new age of “visual orality” (following Walter Ong’s analysis). The materials on this site are designed to prepare you to express yourself effectively in the contemporary media ecosystem.


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