A look at 'Unseen: The lives of looking’ by Dryden Goodwin

Nicolas has been doing work experience with our Education team. In this post he discusses Dryden Goodwin's feature length film on display in our Unseen: Lives of Looking exhibition.

Dryden Goodwin at work in his studio. Dryden Goodwin at work in his studio.

As its predecessors such as Patricio Guzman (The battle of Chile) and Gary Tarn (Black Sun), Unseen is not only an experimental film, it is as well a visual experience on our perception of seeing.

The film begins with seemingly unconnected images of every day life, shown in quick succession. Beginning with the study of Sir Peng Tee Khaw, the UK’s leading eye surgeon, we understand that the camera is filming as it was Dryden Goodwin’s eyes. The use of subjectivity allows us to understand his vision and his own understanding on perception.

The drawings are an important part of Dryden Goodwin’s filmmaking and perception. During the entire film, Goodwin does not show us the face of the main protagonists (or at least not entirely). However the drawings he provides in the film show the entire face of the characters but through his point of view which emphasizes the concept of subjectivity.


The context of the sound of the film adds to the pleasure of the visual experience. The film score, provided by Dryden Goodwin, is very specific to the image. The use of dark ambient music relates to the fast pace and the main subject of the film as it creates a specific ambiance to the images and to the context of each character.

The interview of the main characters is another important aspect of the sound. Even though the characters are interviewed and heard in the majority of the film, the director chose to not shoot the interviews and to implement them in the film. This aspect links directly to the use of subjective camera on the fact that he wants us to react with our eyes while maintaining a coherent narrative structure.

In the end, the film is not only a film directed on Dryden Goodwin’s point of view. Throughout the choice of experimental images, sound and subjectivity, he makes us think about how we perceive life by interacting with three individuals who have three different particular visions.

The theme of perception and vision reminds again to Patricio Guzman’s ‘Battle of Chile’ and Gary’s Tarn ‘Black Sun’ but all those 3 films have their own identities. Guzman’s uses the testimony of the people during the Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and their visual perception of the regime. Black Tarn uses the absence of images by filming the story of Hugues de Montalembert, an artist/filmmaker who became blind during an assault in the late 1970’s. As for Goodwin, he uses his own perception by creating a visual essay on how do we see life through the study of three characters who have a different vision from one another.

Hear Dryden Goodwin and his three subjects discuss the act of looking at our Unseen: A day of exploration event on 30 May.