In & Out


In & Out features the writing of poet Fanny Howe and SX-70 Polaroids made by Robert Gardner during the filming of Ika Hands in 1981. Gardner shot a series of 87 images (one every twenty seconds) from a fixed position that captured the activity in the doorway of an Ika dwelling. In 2009, the images were given to Fanny Howe, who shuffled them, and wrote a short poem that weaves the images together in a new way.

34 pages, unfolded jacket size is 40″ x 12″, folded size is 9 1/2″ x 12″. The inside of the book jacket displays a grid of all 87 images in chronological order and selected images are reproduced full size in the book itself. First edition of 250 signed and numbered copies. Designed by Fogelson-Lubliner, printed November 2009 by Meridian Press.

Fanny Howe is a recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2009), theGriffin Poetry Prize (2005), and the Lenore Marshall and Poetry Prize (2001).

Just Representations

by Robert Gardner

This book presents selected writings by Robert Gardner. There are journals he wrote during stays in different parts of the world, observing and reacting to diverse ways of life, traditional and modern. There are his accounts of film projects envisioned and planned but not completed. There are essays, more formal and systematic than the journals, on ways of life in pre-modern cultures that Gardner has observed first hand. We also read his voiceover narrations from the films Dead Birds (1961) and Rivers of Sand (1975), which come to life in a new way on the page. And in an interview, letters, and articles, Gardner addresses the subject of filmmaking—his own and that of others—and reflects on film’s relation to anthropology and, more broadly, to the very project of human beings to understand reality.

The material here, most all of it previously unpublished, is presented in three sections. In Parts I and II we see Gardner in the practice of just representation, or aiming at it. In Part III we see him talking about just representation, the concerns and the issues of it, specifically in his own filmmaking work and to some extent in that of others. He talks about filmmaking, not writing—but the writings of Parts I and II cannot be disentangled from filmmaking. There is the same sensibility and drive to expression at work. And as Gardner’s brief introductions to each piece make clear, the writings come out of filmmaking situations, out of preparation for or work on various filmmaking projects. The writings extend what the filmmaking does, complete what the filmmaking does not complete, take byways from the filmmaking and make new discoveries—and, of course, feed back into the filmmaking. The writing and filmmaking complete each other.

Gardner is fascinating to read. He puts himself into difficult and telling situations, goes where most of us want to go, at least mentally, and gives account with his eye for important detail and, always, his penchant for evaluating the motives that drive people and the forces that bear down on them, as they live their lives and create what they create. Gardner holds a unique place in our culture. He stands for a certain humanistic anthropology, in filmmaking and in writing. I can search myself, he seems to say, and find what binds me to another and what thus can give insight into another—we are of a kind, after all, and participate in a general nature. This self-search and making of connection realizes itself in the techniques and expressive means of the films, and in Gardner’s distinctive way with words in the journals, reflections, and self-reflections making up this book.

  • aerial landscape by Robert Fulton, Chile 1999.

Making Dead Birds – Chronicle of a Film


Robert Gardner’s classic Dead Birds is one of the most highly acclaimed and controversial documentary films ever made. This detailed and candid account of the process of making Dead Birds, from the birth of the idea through filming in New Guinea to editing and releasing the finished film, is more than the chronicle of a single work. It is also a thoughtful examination of what it meant to record the moving and violent rituals of warrior-farmers in the New Guinea highlands and to present to the world a graphic story of their behavior as a window onto our own. Letters, journals, telegrams, newspaper clippings, and over 50 images are assembled to recreate a vivid chronology of events.Making Dead Birds not only addresses the art and practice of filmmaking, but also explores issues of representation and the discovery of meaning in human lives.

Gardner led a remarkable cast of participants on the 1961 expedition. All brought back extraordinary bodies of work. Probably most influential of all was Dead Birds, which marked a sea change in nonfiction filmmaking. This book takes the reader inside the creative process of making that landmark film and offers a revealing look into the heart and mind of one of the great filmmakers of our time.

“This is an immensely valuable book for what it tells us about the evolving analytical and creative process of making a documentary film. Knowledge of this kind is hard to come by, because verbal accounts are so often ephemeral and so few filmmakers write cogently about their work. Here we have the marvelous exception. This book is a kind of dossier, a fascinating narrative carefully stitched together from Gardner’s own writings and a range of related resources. At its heart are Gardner’s letters and journal entries, but these are accompanied by photographs and documents that provide a visual and evidentiary complement to Gardner’s poised and always eloquent prose.”

— David MacDougall, ethnographic filmmaker and author of The Corporeal Image

“This revealing text is a serious addition to written and visual publications about Dani encounters, and it leaves the reader wishing for more.”

— Steven Feld, editor-translator of Jean Rouch: Cine-Ethnography

“Robert Gardner returns cinema to its most primal and far-reaching task and mission: discovering the world.”

— Tom Gunning, author of The Films of Fritz Lang: Allegories of Vision and Modernity

“Gardner’s thoughtful, often eloquent journals and correspondence with filmmakers and colleagues – much of it written on location in the New Guinea highlands – provides a rare glimpse into the painstaking evolution of Dead Birds.”

— Peter Matthiessen, author of Under the Mountain Wall



Limited Edition

First edition, first printing. Limited edition of 100 copies, with an archival inkjet print of Gardner’s 1961 photograph “Ritual War II,” signed and numbered in pencil on the lower margin by Gardner. The print, which was produced by Steven Stinehour, measures 10 x 10 inches on 11 x 11-inch Hahnemeule rag paper and is contained in a numbered white paper sleeve, a photographically illustrated and numbered card-stock sleeve and an additional clear vinyl envelope. The book is signed and numbered in black ink on the final page by Gardner. Soft black cover, no dust jacket as issued.

Making Forest of Bliss – Intention, Circumstance, and Chance in Nonfiction Film


Robert Gardner and Akos Ostor

Forest of Bliss is intended as an unsparing but ultimately redeeming account of the inevitable griefs and frequent happinesses that punctuate daily life in Benares, one of the world’s most holy cities. The film unfolds from one sunrise to the next without commentary, subtitles or dialogue. Three central figures are a healer of great geniality who attends the pained and troubled, a baleful and untouchable King of the Great Cremation Ground who sells the sacred fire, and an unusually conscientious priest who keeps a small shrine on the banks of the Ganges.

“Why all this ambiguity and mystery about these things I’ve called simple elements?” Asks Gardner in the book. “I’m not sure, except that I thought that the audience would not simply wait for the mysteries to be dispelled but would come up with their own solutions, supply their own answers, and so, in that way, they would be doing their own anthropology I would be content if they merely registered the facts: fires, scales, boys, kites, thermals. I’m confident that they would then, at some level of their imagination, work out their meaning.”

Poet Seamus Heaney wrote of the “deep and literate gaze” Robert Gardner transmits “with an intensity that passes from the documentary into the visionary” in his film Forest of Bliss. A decade and a half after its making, it is recognized as a contemporary classic of nonfiction cinema. Making Forest of Bliss, the first in Harvard Film Archive’s series “Voices and Visions in Film,” presents a dialogue between Gardner and his colleague anthropologist Akos Ostor, illustrated with more than 150 images captured from the film. Recalling the conditions of its filming in Benares, India, in 1985, and presenting their moment-by-moment impressions upon watching it several years later, Gardner and Ostor probe questions of what it means to capture life and death on film and ponder how the filmmaker’s intentions, choices necessitated by circumstance, and the serendipity of chance contribute to this endeavor. The resulting conversation is a lively exploration of issues philosophical, anthropological, and–above all–artistic. The volume contains an introduction by philosopher Stanley Cavell and includes a newly mastered DVD of the complete film.

The Story of Umaru Dikko


In 1967 Robert Gardner met and traveled with a Nigerian gentleman, Umaru Dikko, to Northern Nigeria. Dikko recorded sound and translated during this relatively short trip, during which the ritual beating Sharo was documented, and many years later he was involved in a most bizarre series of events. This little zine, published by The Holster, contains this story as told to Michael Hutcherson by Gardner.

“The Story of Umaru Dikko” was created as part of the second installment of Demand & Supply, a print-on-demand project first initiated for the NYC Zine Fest, and expanded upon for the NY Art Book Fairheld October 2-4, 2009 at P.S.1.

12 pages, 5 x 7 1/2, saddle stitched. Limited edition of 50 numbered copies, printed on demand by The Holster.

Books About Robert Gardner


The Cinema of Robert Gardner

by Lucien Taylor & Ilisa Barbash

This is the first volume of essays dedicated to Gardner’s work—a corpus of aesthetically arresting films which includes the classic Dead BirdsRivers of Sand, and Forest of Bliss. Eminent anthropologists, philosophers, film theorists, and fellow artists assess the innovations of his films as well as the controversies they’ve spawned.
Published by Berg, 2007

Natural Rhythms: The Indigenous World of Robert Gardner
by Thomas W. Cooper

This book came about through a collaboration between Tom Cooper, once a student of Robert Gardner’s at Harvard, and Samina Quraeshi, a designer and writer with far flung interests in the arts. It was intended as a sort of primer for Gardner’s film work, picking up where a number of reviews and critical essays left off. Tom Cooper is a professor of film at Emerson College and takes particular interest in the relation between Media and Ethics.
Published by Anthology Film Archives, 1995 (nearly out of print)

by Harry Tomicek

Harry Tomicek became absorbed in Cinema as a writer and thinker about metaphysical issues in art. He has been a frequent contributor to important periodicals concerning the philosophy of art and in film reviews in important newspapers and magazines. His book Gardner was written during the Österreichisches Museum of Vienna’s retrospective of Robert Gardner’s films. It has been said to have made interesting and complex observations on the actuality film particularly in regard to large human matters such as warfare. It is this issue which caught his attention early in his writing when he saw Dead Birds for the first time.
Published by Österreichisches Film Museum, 1991

Rituale Von Leben und Tod: Robert Gardner und seine Filme
by Kapfer (editor)

Trickster Verlag in Munich has been known as a source of some interesting books about film, especially documentary film. This book collects a few articles on Gardner’s films and fits them under the theme of ritual, a dimension of life (and death) that has particularly interested Gardner. With the exception of Jay Ruby who manages to bare his teeth in a particularly vicious manner, the book served well as an accompaniment to a retrospective of Gardner’s work in Freiburg Germany.
Published by Trickster Verlag, 1989 (out of print)