“The Universal documentary feature ‘Ferrari: Race To Immortality‘ revolves around five Formula 1 drivers of the late 1950s (Eugenio Castellotti, the Marquis Alfonso de Portago, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and Mike Hawthorn) who all, extraordinarily, died tragically within just twenty-two months of each other,” archive researcher Richard Wiseman says. “Four of the five died at the steering-wheel of a Ferrari, whilst the fifth was killed on the public road, having just won a World Championship for the Scuderia. Individually and collectively, their life-stories are overwhelmingly unknown to 21st century audiences, and one of the reasons for this is that very little footage of them on film was thought to exist.” (more…)
You studied journalism in South Africa and then social sciences in the UK. How did you end up working in photo research?
It was a natural progression really, as both journalism and my social sciences degree were heavily research-based and actually just strengthened my research skills and elevated the kind of research I do to another level.
My journalism degree taught me to have a healthy respect for the subjectivity of sources and information and an insight into archives and the treasures hidden within those hallowed walls. Cutting my teeth at Reuters News Agency early on in my career taught me two things in the main: not to fear approaching anybody for whatever information I need and making sure that that information was accurate. Two news editors there, one of them called Rex Merrifield, really inculcated a love for chasing down information, and the source of accurate information, so I was lucky to have got that training from them. (more…)
What made you want to become a footage researcher?
After an Archeology degree and a masters in creative writing, I (literally) knocked on the door of a documentary production company and started my experience in the documentary field from there. Within the documentary production world, the most suitable role I found was being a researcher and above all an archive researcher: it seemed like the natural continuation of my past experiences. (more…)
Did you always know you wanted to become a visual researcher?
This is a great question. Although I never targeted “visual researcher” as a career per se, once I began doing the work, it felt like the natural culmination of all my past interests and jobs. From an undergraduate degree in film studies, to working and writing behind the scenes in American public TV and radio and, finally, doing a fashion-history Masters at NYU and teaching, it was as though I was finally able to throw myself into a world that celebrated all these elements. Although a focused approach to researching visual materials is critical, it’s wonderful when some seemingly arcane factoid – be it historical, related to pop culture or current events – sparks an idea that lends added depth and creativity to how I pursue my work. If I hit a roadblock in unearthing some important content, I find myself wondering, “What other angle can I view this from? What other archival sources will this lead me to if I put the subject into a wider context?” All to say, having a strong grasp on a wide range of topics as opposed to expertise in just one or two has come in very handy. (more…)
Interestingly, you didn’t start your career in archival research but ended up working close to this field. Can you tell us a bit about your career path?
I started my career in the programming and scheduling arena, working for RCTV, one of the oldest TV networks in Latin America. My workstation was located next to the film archive, very close to hundreds of shelves full of old 16mm reels and 2’ and 1’ tapes. I was astonished to have access to those records and spent many hours exploring the collection. One of my findings was a reel containing scenes from Barbarella, images that had been cut out from the film by the internal censors in order to make it suitable for general audiences during the 70s. Since then I became aware of the hidden treasures that an archive might contain and its potential to speak about the past. Later on in my career, I became a documentary producer with the clear objective of exploring the use of archival materials for storytelling purposes. (more…)