Alone together – documentary filmmaking and stories of well-being in outdoor spaces

JOHNSON, Esther (2018). Alone together – documentary filmmaking and stories of well-being in outdoor spaces. In: COLES, Richard, COSTA, Sandra and WATSON, Sharon, (eds.) Pathways to well-being in design. Examples from the arts, humanities and the built environment. Abingdon, Routledge, 203-222.

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‘Alone Together, the Social Life of Benches’, an eighteen-minute poetic documentary made by Esther Johnson, was created as part of collaborative AHRC research ‘The Bench Project’ exploring how individuals and groups use public space. One of the aims for this research was to test how making a film can help tell detailed and nuanced stories about encounters, exclusion and wellbeing in outdoor spaces. ‘Alone Together’ includes a series of oral testimonies in order to illuminate the thoughts of frequent users of two public spaces in London: General Gordon Square, Woolwich and St Helier Open Space, Sutton. During the research period of making the film, Johnson conducted repeated audio interviews in the knowledge that this material would be used both for the film, and as social data for a written report. Thus the interview questioning was extended, the resulting transcriptions aiding the research in multiple dimensions. This chapter considers the use of moving image and sound, the process of filmmaking, and the results of the documentary in identifying how everyday environmental assets are used in supporting individual wellbeing. There is also a discussion of how the experiential capacity of film is used to highlight themes such as the feeling of being in a space, the rhythm and flow of visitors to a place, and the importance of design for everyday street furniture. Revolving around the micro-space of the humble bench, the film acts like a stranger who joins you to ‘watch the world go by’, and to break the ice by starting a conversation with their fellow bench user. Keywords: Documentary Filmmaking; Ethnography; Oral Testimony; Portrait; Social Research

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: ISBN (hbk)9780815346944 (ebk) 9781351170048
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Departments - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts > Department of Media Arts and Communication
Page Range: 203-222
Depositing User: Esther Johnson
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2017 14:57
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 07:07

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