When I started at RMIT photography school in 1965 , we had classes in a number of subjects not related to Advertising and Illustrative Photography – location and studio camera work or processing and printing. High on the list of those that you realised by the end of the three year course were never going to be used – optics, retouching (prints and 4×5″ negatives), psychology ( I remember doing the full Lüscher color test and some Rorschach blots. I doubt if we were being ‘profiled’, more just introduced to Pop-psychology 101). We also had sessions in basic electrical theory (with an electrician father I already knew the difference between an amp and a volt, how to wire a three-pin plug and replace a fuse wire. I also had a healthy respect for a charged capacitor in the early studio flash units when someone tossed one to me as a joke).There was one subject however that did have a profound ongoing effect, and that was cinema history.
For that class we walked together from the La Trobe Street campus down to the State Film Centre, which was downstairs at the Treasury Buildings at 1 MacArthur Street Melbourne. (This was before the opening of the State Film Theatre which became the Treasury Theatre.) Rod Power was our teacher, (searching online I had to look for H. Rod Power but other than a screening he organised at a Scout Jamboree, I found nothing). To understand the emphasis on showing us almost all early documentary work, you need to know that the Australian National Film Board was started by English film maker and proselytiser John Greirson (that’s him in the featured pic, he is credited with coining the term ‘documentary’ in his early film criticism). Greirson started the National Film Board of Canada and the State Film Centre in Melbourne developed one of the biggest lending collections of 16mm films.
As ACMI say “A visit to Australia in 1940 by pioneering British documentary filmmaker Dr John Grierson led to the establishment of the Australian National Film Board in 1945 as a means to strengthen the Australian production industry.Dr Grierson’s recommendations led to the formation of state-based government film bodies. The State Film Centre of Victoria was established with the aim of maintaining its own film library in addition to supporting regional lending services and mobile projection units that screened films to isolated audiences.”
There’s a lovely bit of silent video of the film lending library in the early sixties, you can sense the seriousness of the task of bringing visual education to the masses.
And we saw films like this and I didn’t think they were ‘old’ or boring.
Cavalcanti sound track, Benjamin Britten score. The W.H.Auden poem a starts at 22.mins