Margaret Mead & Gregory Bateson

Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were actually a married couple of anthropologists who worked together on several projects. While they later divorced in 1950 after having a girl, they still remained friends until death.

Margaret Mead was a cultural anthropologist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who focused on broadening sexual mores within a context of traditional Western religious life. She was known to be very influential for the 1960’s sexual revolution, as a women’s rights activist. Mead is also credited for changing the way we study different human cultures.

Gregory Bateson was born in Grantchester, England. As an anthropologist, social scientist, and cyberneticist, he was greatly recognized for incorporating systems to cultural behavior. Bateson had the desire to re-introduce “the mind” back into scientific equations.

Mead and Bateson met one another in 1933, in New Guinea, and soon enough were working on anthropologic films together. The two intended to characterize schemas based on gender and temperament, wanting to center around the idea of child development, specifically comparing them to Western civilization. They worked together, Mead running field notes and Bateson being in charge of the photographic record. After observing the people of Bali, the pair discovered that mothers in this civilization ignore their child when they express extreme emotion of “affection or temper,” instead of giving them all the attention like those in Western cultures. Their work in Bali was some of the first uses of photography as a primary recording device rather than just as illustration.

Their films were all generally in black and white, since that was the norm at the time of their research. However, the couple had very different research styles. Bateson preferred to just observe enough as a small basis for his own theories and interests to go from there, while Mead was really passionate for specific details and intricate patterns. Their differences worked for them in the end, as during their research, Mead was responsible for their project’s detailed focus and Bateson took all photos.

Their film, Trance and Dance in Bali, was very influential for its time. It depicts a performance of Balinese people dancing while going through violent trances, stabbing themselves with daggers without injury. They are then restored to consciousness with hoy water and incense. It showed the difference in our society, in which trances such as these may be considered one of violence and possibly schizophrenia, but in another it is normal or sacred.


Bathing Babies in Three Cultures, is intended to show the different parenting methods between Balinese and New Guinea children from American practices. This is depicted through the differentiating bathing processes. In it, a native mother washes her own ad neighbor’s children in a river—washes them standing, holding the kid firmly by the arm. She splashes them with water then lifts them to the bank, shaking the child in the air to dry.

Both Mead and Bateson left great legacies within the anthropological world. It has been said that without these two, many cultural traditions of several societies may have been forgotten.

John Marshall

John Kennedy Marshall is and American anthropologist and acclaimed documentary filmmaker, most known for his work in Namibia. His work focused mainly on the lives of the Ju/’hoansi also known as the !King Bushmen. His first travel experience to the Kalahari Desert was meeting the Ju/’hoansi of the Nyae in 1950 on a trip organized by his father in search of the “Lost World of the Kalahari”. His films anticipated the cinema verite movement of the 1960s, which focuses on depicting reality as his films combine documentary media and ethnographic film. His shooting style evolved to reflect his position within the filmed society, which is that of the participant as opposed to the outside observer.

John MarshallHis filming career essentially took off when he took his 16mm Kodak camera on his second trip to the Kalahari to conduct an ethnographic study of the Ju/’hoansi and record one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer cultures. Thus from 1950-1958, Marshall focused on filming their life and his first edited film entitled The Hunters was released in 1957. The film portrayed the Ju/’hoansi in their everyday life along with their constant struggle with nature. Yet at the time the Ju/’hoansi were clashing with the modern world, struggling to find food. The film however made Marshall determined to produce more objective, and less mediated films about the Ju/’hoansi. Consequently, he created a series of short films designed to educate without “exoticizing” or “imposing western narrative structures on the subject”.

However, during the 1960s and most of the 1970s, Marshall and all other anthropologists were banned from visiting the Ju/’hoansi by the government. As a result Marshall made short films with his previously collected in 1950s and also pursued various film projects in the US. In 1968, he and Tim Asch founded Documentary Educational Resources, an NGO dedicated to facilitating the use of cross-cultural documentaries within classrooms. Marshal also took part in grassroots organizing and development in Nyae Nyae in the 1980s, leading to the creation of what would become the Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia. Due to his devotion, in 2003, the Society for Visual Anthropology gave Marshall a lifetime achievement award for his 50-year of work among the hunter-gatherer society. Known as the John Marshall Ju/’hoansi Bushman Film and Video Collection (1950-2000), the entire collection was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register for documentary heritage of world importance in July 2009.

The Hunters (1957) – From the !Kung series

N!ai : The Story of a Kung Woman 


Famous Figures: Judith & David MacDougall

EXCERPT – 0:00 to 9:06

I was unable find a free sample of Familiar Places. Photo Wallahs was the only film I could find online that was directed by both Judith and David MacDougall. The nine minute excerpt provides examples of techniques that were common in macdougall films, such as: subtitling as opposed to voice-over narration, acknowledgement of the presence of a camera (8:50), and long takes (1:49 to 3:34).

Judith and David MacDougall

Both Judith and David MacDougall graduated from the Ethnographic Film Program at UCLA and married shortly thereafter. They began producing ethnographic documentaries in the late 1960s, during which time they studied indigenous populations in Africa and Australia.

While the MacDougalls are highly regarded in the field of visual anthropology, they are less known by documentary makers as a whole. This has largely been attributed to the fact that the MacDougalls have consistently defied the mainstream conventions of documentary editing that mimic the practices of fiction filmmaking. Their goal, according to David in an interview with American Anthropologist, has always been to develop an “unprivileged camera style” that preserves, for instance, long takes and initial encounters. In this way, the viewer is able to better observe daily practices as opposed to hearing about them through scripted narration and interviews in which the subjects reflect on their experiences after-the-fact.

That said, the MacDougalls have never claimed omniscience. In fact, they have labeled their work as reflexive even before this term became popularized among anthropologists. In their films, the MacDougalls acknowledge their presence, include first-person commentary, and allow the viewer to hear both the questions they asked and the responses they received from those whom they studied. The MacDougalls have even been known for deliberately including the reactions of their subjects when they realize they are being filmed.

One practice that has been highly popularized by the MacDougalls is subtitling indigenous speech as opposed to utilizing an English voiceover. Although commonplace now, in the early 1970s, this tool was instrumental in bringing ethnographic subjects to life on screen.

Although the pair has separated, both David and Judith have continued to make ethnographic films. Currently, David’s interests lie in children’s educational institutions in India, while Judith recently published work pertaining to how the digital and cultural revolutions in China have affected one another.