Banksy’s 2010 “‘Camera Man & Flower’” is a subtle commentary on, and derision of, claims of objectivity in documentary film and journalism. The piece first appeared in Park City, Utah, in January, on the side of a coffee shop on Main Street. More attuned to tagging his murals in the bustling urban centers of the world, Banksy’s sudden appearance in Middle America was not disputed. A number of the guerilla artist’s works had sprung up around Park City and Salt Lake City as the area got ready for the approaching Sundance Film Festival, and Banksy’s debut film Exit Through the Gift Shop was the talk of the town. Excitement only grew when the verification of the artist’s repeated murals confirmed suspicions that Banksy had already arrived in person at the festival. “‘Camera Man & Flower’” is another glorious amalgamation of location and environment. In the snowy climes of Park City the appearance of a sole blooming flower in January is a sight to behold. As such, a fascinated documentary filmmaker zooms in on the petals, only to rip the plant out from the ground to get a better look. It is a stunning work of iconographic simplicity, and sums up the concerns about journalism and documentary filmmaking that have been rife since the 1920s. How can a documentary filmmaker or journalist ever claim to be truly objective? Doesn’t their presence holding the camera always alter the experience of reality they claim to faithfully depict? These two key questions are eloquently posed in Banksy’s piece, which certainly gave the Sundance Film Festival something to think about ahead of his first film.
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