Niklas Vollmer
Department of Communication
Georgia State University

Reading the Water (40  minutes) is a high-definition experimental ‘home video’ and personal-poetic essay that mobilizes the coast of Maine—the sandbox of the Vollmer’s youth and his marine biologist and naturalist professor photographer father’s area of expertise—as a metaphor for exploring the depths of masculine relationships and family ecosystem sustainability across three generations. The videotape’s title employs the idea of “reading” the surface of water—akin to unpacking the meaning of a photograph—as a means to navigate what is below; it “reads” the water both in content and form and utilizes playfully reflexive editing techniques and wry cinematic disruptions to unveil the complex and fragile dynamics of the family ecosystem vis-à-vis a behind-the-scene reveal of the videotape’s construction. Vollmer also harnesses on-screen text to incorporate his (then) 3-year-old son’s well-expressed need for emotional presence from his biological ‘fathers’—a strategy that also gives voice to the maker’s own buried, yet still present, need for his own dad. The work is also a love letter to his son and father.

View the film: 

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/12257410]

Download the PDF of this article here: Vollmer