The Camera: Je or La Camera: I, 1977

Babette Mangolte, a French artist who has lived in the United States since 1970, actively participated in the circle of avant-garde artists, choreographers and filmmakers in New York in the seventies. In 1975, after working as a documentary maker and director of photography for artists such as Marina Abramović, Chantal Akerman, Trisha Brown, Philip Glass, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman, among others, Mangolte began producing her own works.
The Camera: Je /La Camera: I (1977) is her second film, which explores the power relations that come into play in the process of producing images and some of the dichotomies inherent in the work of a photographer. The film is structured into three distinct parts that play with the ideas of contrast and dichotomy. The first part, filmed in the artist's studio, shows a photo shoot with a camera and a model receiving orders in the foreground: “Look at me. Look at the camera.” Through the camera, the viewer participates in the decisions to the beat of the shutter, and observes the model's gestures as though he or she were the photographer. The photographer's instructions, in a mix of English and French, are intended for the model, but they also end up involving the viewer, who can identify with both the artist and the subject being photographed.

In the second part of the film, the camera goes down to the streets of New York near the artist's studio in Tribeca. The voice does not speak. The hand-held camera randomly scans the urban bustle in an attempt to capture the sounds and the immediacy of the metropolis. Mangolte presents a second dichotomy between interior and exterior, silence and sound, portrait and landscape, the artist's control in her studio and the spontaneous movement of the camera on the streets.

The third section goes back indoors to the artist's studio. Numerous photographs of the streets that we have just seen are displayed on the wall, and the artist and a male character are discussing and selecting them. Like a series of points of view, the scene positions the viewers in the photographer's shoes, making them share her professional space and become an active part of the process.

Technical details

Original title:
The Camera: Je or La Camera: I
Registration number:
Mangolte, Babette
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
16 mm film transferred to video, b/w and colour, sound, 88 min
Edition number:
Ed. 2/5 + 2 P.A.
MACBA Collection. MACBA Consortium
© Babette Mangolte
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

For more information on the work or the artist, please consult MACBA's Library. To request a loan of the work, please write to colleccio [at] macba.cat.

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Babette Mangolte "The Camera: Je or La Camera: I", 1977
Babette Mangolte "The Camera: Je or La Camera: I", 1977
Babette Mangolte "The Camera: Je or La Camera: I", 1977
Babette Mangolte "The Camera: Je or La Camera: I", 1977