Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interviews: What I thought I knew.

So, first off my aunt questioned me as to whether or not I was actually doing homework since I kept giggling every few seconds while watching the course videos. She wasn't at all convinced that I was really doing homework. Her response? "Why are you having so much fun doing homework?" My response? "Because I am taking a really interesting class with a really cool professor. I think I have yet to convince her =P

The videos were really insightful about how I should conduct the interviews I plan on doing for the final project. Of course, certain things were common sense like knowing about your interviewee and being prepared with a list of questions. However, the positioning of the camera was "less intuitive" as the video suggested. The rule of the thirds for the head positioning really got me. I wouldn't have thought that it would be okay to cut a part of the forehead but not the chin. Interesting... I will make sure to incorporate these hints while I'm doing my interviews. I thought that I would conduct my interview with Iso at his jewelry store and use the counters as background. It wouldn't be too distracting but at the same time, not too plain. I need to get a tripod and I need to do it soon. That way I won't shake the camera.

As for the interview with the head priest of the Syrian church, I thought it would be appropriate to do it inside the church. I visioned that it would be more intimate if I sat with Mr. Aziz Hadodu in the pews and show both of us in the frames. But, now I'm not sure of that after I watched the interview tips videos. Give me some insight on this. Is it an absolute "no-no," or should I conduct the interview this way because I'm trying to give a certain feeling?

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Not exactly the best first try for a video

Well, here it is.... I did not have the best time in the world doing this. As I have said before, I am not a technical whiz, not at all. So, I thought, hey I already have Windows Movie Maker installed on my computer so I'll just use that since Professor Nichols already gave us a link for the tutorial. Well, apparently Windows hates Apple. WHO KNEW?! So, Windows movie maker refuses to play Quicktime videos, which means that any file that is saved as ".mov" will not be edited in Windows Movie Maker. I I downloaded this "codec" thingie that it needed. It still didn't work. Youtube is a great source of "how-to-videos" by the way. After watching four videos and downloading three different software that "promised" to fix the problem, I gave up and downloaded Muuvie Reveal instead. A very easy program to use for the technically challenged people like me. I HIGHLY recommend this software. The only problem I had with it was I couldn't find a way to rotate the videos that I took.

A little bit about this video, I started out with filming my family and friends, showing what a night with my family looks like. I decided to work with the older files, like my photography and the recent "home" videos I took, because honestly, I am very very inexperienced with filming and "cutting" them to make a video. So, this video was more of a learning tutorial for me. I spent a lot of time figuring out how to add video and pictures. Figured out how to add captions and how to make transitions. The coolest thing was how to break up the film into pieces and take out the pieces that I didn't like. Here's a note for the challenged people like me: if you are using a digital camera to do your video recording because you don't have any other sources, find out where the darn microphone is on your camera before you record a 10 minute video with white noise. Seriously.... it was embarrassing when I sat down to review and edit the videos and I found out that I had no audio. Which is why there is the music in the background. I am learning.... I am having fun though! I want to figure out a few more things though. For example, how would you be able to dim the background music if I wanted to narrate the video instead of caption it?

Okay, in the past two days, I learned a lot about Muuvie Reveal and how to use it and again, I HIGHLY recommend it. I'm going to give Windows Movie Maker another try but I need help. Please, I don't know how to solve this "codec" problem. If anybody has any ideas please, please let me know.

Anyways, let me know what you think.

P.S. Here are some screen shots of how cool and easy it is to use Muuvie Reveal

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Storyboarding... You have GOT to be kidding!

I cannot draw if my life depended on it. I can make copies of drawings or paintings I see, but I am definitely not a drawing artist. So, here's what I'm going to do: I will have a "plan of action," in the form of a storyboard and the frames of my storyboard will consist of pictures and videos that I took/will take. That way, I will save myself the embarrassment of drawing.

Since I had decided on investigating the Süryani culture, I have had a few people in mind that I would like to interview. First person that I will interview is our family friend, İso and possibly his wife and children. He was so eager to accommodate me in anyway when I told him that I will be studying the Süryanis. Actually, he is so excited that when he saw me today, he asked me if I was going to church with him tomorrow and he told me that he will take me to a different church tomorrow so that I can take pictures in a different setting.

Another person that I want to interview is the Priest from the church I went to in Hackensack. The priest's name is Aziz Hadodu. He graduated from Yildiz Technical University in Besiktas, Istanbul where I am from. He was so unbelievably excited and so willing to help with my project.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want to include in my Personal Video, but the Professional and the Public Issues will take more investigation.

In my personal video I will include pictures and videos from the Süryani church services, family gatherings, and parties I went to. I even waitressed İso's daughter's engagement party so that I would take good pictures and videos and communicate with their guests and family members. I have really cool pictures from there. In fact here's me towards the end of the night, looking quite tired.

So I don't think the Personal Video will be very challenging in terms of finding material and ideas, but for the Professional and the Public Issues Videos I will need to come up with some ideas doing interviews. I am studying Finance and Accounting, so I need to find relevant points within the Süryani culture. Since Süryanis are very apt in business especially in import/export and jewelry business, I was thinking that my interview with İso, who owns several jewelry stores, would be included in the Professional Video. I would investigate about the typical businesses Süryanis are more inclined to get into and the cultural influences behind their business choices and how they conduct their business.

As for the Public Issues Video, I will speak to Aziz Hadodu about the struggles of the Süryanis due to their beliefs, especially the Süryanis in Turkey where the 99% of he population is Muslim.

So, let me know what else I should include in my Personal and Public Issues Videos since I will struggle with them the most. Give me some ideas as to what else I should add, etc.

P.S. I am getting s excited about the actual composition of the videos. I will be learning a lot technically since I've never cut or edited a video before!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Yea... No kidding. Anybody can push a button and take a photograph but it is an entirely different thing to make that photograph a picture. I think that the difference between a photograph and a picture is that a picture has a story behind it and that it is intentional (most of the time).

Last week, I had asked Professor Nichols about that week and last weeks assignments because I had a feeling that I was doing them wrong. I have been into photography for a long time so I have a good sized portfolio. However, I wasn't sure whether or not we had to practice our photography by taking pictures of our target culture or not. Professor Nichols said that it would be ideal since "you'd kill two birds with one stone."

Well, I arranged to go to the Assyrian service on Sunday, but since it was on such a short notice, I wasn't able to speak directly with the priest, only our friend told me that it was okay for me to walk around and take pictures during the service.

I felt uncomfortable to say the least. Not only that, I felt like I was disturbing people while they were worshiping. All in all, I could only take about 70 or so pictures and a few short videos.

When I got home that Sunday, I was horrified. The point-and-shoot digital camera that I was using stinks! To say the least, only about 10-20 photographs were good quality due to the lack of light and the abundance of incense smoke in the church.

Well anyways, I'm going to share a few of my photos and explain what I tried to capture with them.

Beautiful stained glass. Even though the church I went to is a small church with a small congregation, they are very tight knit. In fact, the congregation raised enough money to buy a two million dollar acre to build a new church. by shutting off the flash on the camera, I hoped to capture the divinity of every inch of this place.

The object that is seen on top of the covers in the foreground is the Bible that the priest reads in the church. It is so symbolic that everybody participating in the service kisses it at some point during the service.

Notice here that the women have their heads covered during the service in the church. This is mainly a Islamic tradition to cover the heads of the women. Many Turkish and Islamic traditions have infused into the Christian Assyrian culture.

This picture, I wanted to capture another tradition that infused into the Assyrian culture, that is the separation of men and women. In this church, the women sit on the right side of the isle while the men sit on the left. Here is a shot of the front of the church from the right side, behind a woman with a head scarf.

This is another shot showing the separation of the genders. I took a friend of mine to the church with me that morning so that she can help me if I needed anything, batteries, memory card, etc. We came in, covered our heads, and sat on the left side of the isle, the men side. After about five minutes somebody came over and told us to go to the other side. In the beginning of the service the church was half empty so there were plenty of spaces in each side. But towards the end of the service, the church was packed with people standing towards the back and side walls. More women than men came to the service, so naturally some of the women sat on the left side with the men, but no men sat on the right side. Later, our friend of the family, Iso (which means Jesus in Aramaic), told us that it is common for men and women to have mixed seating here in the US since their church is small. However, this would never happen regardless of the availability in Turkey or Europe.

The priest reading from the Bible. Singing is prominent during the Assyrian service. In fact, there were hardly any spoken words during the service. Everybody "talked" in a singing manner.

The priest blessing the altar boy and handing him the incense so he can walk around the church with it. Note the two men on each side of the altar. They have their backs turned to the congregation. Now, I've been to many churches, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, yet I had never seen a service where the attendants and the priest did most of the paying while turning their backs to the congregation. This is another Islamic tradition. The Imam and the Cemaat (congregation in Turkish) turns to the direction of the Mecca to pray. So in essence during the whole prayer, Imam's back is to the Cemaat. It was the same incident here with the priest and the attendants.

Even though this shot came out a little darker than I intended to, I really like this picture. This was right after the altar boy kissed the Bible. You can just see the reflection of the light coming in from the stained glass on the Bible.

Choir girls. I really like the angle of this picture. The photograph of Jesus is on the top left while the girls are on the bottom right. Small detail, the candles below the photograph of Jesus adds to the mood.

Here the girls are singing. I took this picture from the second row between the two women because I wanted to show the prominence of the head scarf tradition. The friend who came with me to the church that day is also Turkish and she also doesn't know anything about Assyrians. Her comment after we left was, "They [the congregation] were like Muslims in a church!" No kidding. The infusion of both religions is uncanny.

İşo, our friend, is in the middle (gray suit). This gesture of "shaking hands" is the gesture of "giving of peace." People shake hands with others around them then rubbing their hands to their face. This is yet another Islamic tradition. During the daily prayer, Muslims open up the palms of their hands to the heavens and after the prayer, rub their hands to their faces as if to rub in the blessing from Allah to themselves. Speaking of Allah, Assyrians do not address God as God but they use the word Allah. This was the most interesting part for me. In Turkish, we have two words to describe "the creator," if you will. Allah is used as the one and only creator, while the use of God is in a more general term as if to say a deity. For example, in Turkish, we would call Venus a God because she is the Goddess of love, beauty and natural productivity. We wouldn't call her the Allah of Love. I hope I am explaining this right... Please ask me if you get confused.

This was the elder lady in front of me "giving peace." I think the blurriness of this picture and the subsequent two pictures can kind of explain how determined she was to get to as many people as possible.

Here she is right after she gave peace to

Here is the last picture of the day. The service took a little longer than usual because there was a memorial service for the relative of a congregation member who passed away in Europe. The congregation member bought grapes and bread for everybody to snack on after the service. This can show you how tight knit the Assyrians are. Somebody's relative passes away in Europe somewhere and they hold a service to pray for that person in the US.

Anyways, I hope you like the stories behind the pictures and I hope that you were able to catch some of the stories I way trying to tell through my pictures without the help of my narration. Please let me know what you think.