Video Days: And What We Saw Through the Viewfinder – Joseph Robert Cowles


VIDEO DAYS begins in 1969 when video technology was still virtually unknown to the public. A portable video camera was an oddity. The only people who had them were cops, hippies, and conceptual artist Nam June Paik, who recorded the Pope’s visit to New York in 1965 using one. The cops recorded the faces of hippies at events and political actions and the hippies loved to shoot videos of the cops shooting video of them. “When I would overhear the word ‘video’ being spoken on the street or in a restaurant somewhere,” says author Nancy Cain, “I would assume people were talking about me. It was logical. And if I turned to look, I would often see people pointing at me and my camera and they would be smiling and waving. They’d want to know how much it cost, was it heavy, and what it was for. It cost maybe $1,500; the deck and camera together weighed about twenty pounds; and it was for adventure and freedom and possibilities and truth. It wasn’t movies or television, it was video. Video was a rover. Video came along for the ride. Video was immediate. It was participatory. During that summer of 1969, while working on a pilot production for the CBS television network, I met the Videofreex. They had just returned from the Woodstock Festival of Peace and Love with amazing reverse angle footage that completely changed the way I saw television and the world. Ultimately, the network passed on our project but I stayed with the Videofreex, and then struck out on my own. VIDEO DAYS is about me and my camcorder, where we went together for the next thirty years, and how television media changed as a result of this technological revolution. Today our good old video media revolution is history. It has been replaced by the social media revolution, which is huge and important beyond belief, all streaming and instantaneous, a people’s medium. And don’t forget, video is everywhere. It detonates our bombs, it watches our babies, it belongs to us all.”

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