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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Sydney Augustine at 7:06PM

Written by Sydney Augustine, Sports Media ‘19, Blogging Intern, Queens, New York

While pursuing a master’s degree in the field of Creative Writing at Cornell University, Philip Mallory Jones became immediately intrigued with motion graphics as a Cinema minor in the late 60s and early 70s.

“It [16 mm animated film] was a quicker way into someone’s mind and different than reading words on a page. It was a quicker way to capture someone’s imagination,” Mr. Jones reminscies.

Stumbling across the fresh-off-the-boat format video machine, Mr. Jones was excited by the freedom and open possibilities this new form of cinema presented. But as he began his deep exploration into this world of new media art, he realized there wasn’t much of community structure.

Inspired by the models of similar groups that existed in other cities, Mr. Jones started several organizations in Ithaca, including the Ithaca Video Project (I.V.P.). As the political environment intensified during this time in the 1970s, the Ithaca Video Project became an organizing vehicle used to ignite and push social change. Using inexpensive and expensive media tools, young passionate artists from various disciplines came together to take action.

“You could say we were loose in the street, making it up as we went learn, building a new system and trying to make an impact  all while pursuing our individual interests.” Mr. Jones says about Ithaca Video Project’s collective intention to bring awareness to political and social issues on the east coast, especially in the Finger Lakes region, which was supported by grants and other funding.

For the next three decades, Mr. Jones watched technology rapidly change and improve while collaborating closely with his wife doing narrative and dramatic video pieces, shifting from intense media-making to fashioning sculptures and building kites, and making a return to video and film in the 90s but now traveling around the globe.

While gaining immense professional satisfaction from his travels, Mr. Jones became tired of the ‘hardware chase’ as technology rapidly evolved and participation in media exploded. Desiring to work with simpler technology instead of motion film and shift from a global perspective to one more local, Mr. Jones began working digitally and exploring his Chicago roots.

For over a decade, Mr. Jones has engaged in extensive, continuous research. From talking to his mother, a renowned African American artist, who participated in the founding of the South Side Community Center in Chicago to exploring Black American newspaper archives at the Library of Congress to going to flea markets and digging through the treasure trove of Ebay in the early 2000s.

“Charlie White… Bill McLaughlin… Gwendolyn Brooks… Lorraine Hansberry… Nat King Cole, who my father grew up with… these people were all around me when I was young,” Mr. Jones speaks on his personal family history was resourceful in developing the narrative.

The story of South Side Chicago, between the 1930s and 1950s, is full of rich characters, situations, and stories that are unknown to many who do not hail from there.

The birth of Cool Jazz.

Trumpeter Miles Davis.

The birth of Gospel.

Chicago electric bluesmen B.B. KINGS and Muddy Waters.  

The unknown legend of South Side Two-Gun Pete.

But Mr. Jones wants to make this history known. Growing up in this vibrant, creative environment that thrived on unity and support from one another in the Black community, Mr. Jones looks to tell this story with Bronzeville: Etudes & Riffs, though he wasn’t even looking to  create a whole entire neighborhood at first.

“So much that touches that place and time…” Mr. Jones expresses as talks about his previous work, Lissen Here!, which was a collaborative book he did with his mother in 2004 and highlight South Side Chicago as well.

In the context of Jim Crow, the Great Depression, War World II, and the Great Migration, Mr. Jones thinks it is important to realize that these fascinating and telling stories have a universality to them for this was life in Black urban areas all over the country.

Black communities, full of celebrities and normal everyday folks, flourished with creative ideas and everyone supported and uplifted one another. Mr. Jones hopes to highlight all the good that has come out of Black communities, despite the oppression. And though he acknowledges that Black Americans have struggled for centuries, he doesn’t want to emphasize that narrative.

Mr. Jones wants to disrupt the narrative by taking the opportunity to say something more, something different, something positive.

All while his deep love and appreciation for the written word continues and intensifies, especially after stepping away from video. Mr. Jones has found a newfound appreciation for background in writing after realizing how visuals and narratives co-exist as he has more use for constructing stories for his graphics like Bronzevilles: Etudes and Riffs.

This will be Mr. Jones first time back at FLEFF in 8 years. He looks forward to reconnecting with old friends and colleagues, engaging in intellectual discourse, and encountering new works and idea. In 2011, Mr. Jones found his FLEFF experience to be rejuvenating and inspiring, and looks to having a similar experience this year.

Mr. Jones will be involved in FLEFF for the entire week, from his digital art shown during Tuesday’s concert to him leading a Master Class on Thursday to showing his work at Cinemapolis on Saturday. There will be plentiful chances to see his beautiful and detailed digital work and take a trip back to the Chicago Renaissance.


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