The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography is a captivating, 75-minute-long documentary directed by Errol Morris. In it, the photographer Elsa Dorfman give us an intimate tour into her life’s work: her collection of massive 20×24 Polaroid photography prints.
It begins with the demise of polaroid photography and then endearingly continues with Dorfman telling the story behind a portrait of her husband in which he wears a coat with a light vest sewn onto it – signalling that yes, this documentary is going to be a deeply personal one. It is only Dorfman that Morris attempts to film, at times placing older footage of television interviews with the photographer into the film’s narrative as well.
The documentary is sometimes a commentary on the practicalities of photography, but it is mainly a heartening recital of those in her pictures who are, or sadly were, dearest to her. Focus is also placed on Dorfman’s friendship with Beat-generation poet Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry is said to have influenced her photography.
The B-Side also mentions of a beautiful series inspired by her husband that is completely centred around the black balloons he began giving her from her fiftieth birthday onwards. Obviously influenced by 60s culture in America, Dorfman was someone who did not skew or alter nude portraits of herself or friends, like Ginsberg, and preferred to keep images realistic. She also liked capturing people at their brightest moments; Dorfman believes this is her life’s purpose, to inspire happiness through her photography. The incredible array of pictures she took at her Massachusetts-based studio of happy families and friends reflect this thought.
A must-watch, The B-Side is a interesting delineation of a photographer’s life work.
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography does not have a UK release date yet.
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