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Posts tagged ‘documentary’:

A Chance Meeting with Ross Kauffman (‘Born Into Brothels’, 2004)

Chris Edwards and Ross-Kauffman at Production Junction

A couple of weeks ago, I was in New York City to visit one of our newest dealers, Production Junction. Its owner, Chris Edwards, describes the company as a ’boutique rental house’ operated by experienced film and video shooters. They’re right — that’s a perfect way to put it, and you should put them in your contact list. Just off First Avenue in the  East Village (and about a 7-iron from Momofuku and other great restaurants), PJ is a prime example of the kind of small but expert companies that independent filmmakers can turn to for every item they’ll need in a production package, as well as for help in securing the permits needed for filming in urban locations.

By chance, during my visit with Chris and his team, I also met Ross Kauffman, whose film Born Into Brothels won the Academy Award® for Best Documentary a few years ago, along with a long list of other prizes. Ross was finalizing his equipment package for a trip to Africa later in the week to shoot a group of short films on education.

Since they’re so light[weight], I always try to have a Rosco LitePad or two with me in my shoulder bag; after Ross told me about his lighting needs on location, I showed the LitePads to him. On seeing the accessory dimmers and AA-battery packs that can power LitePad for hours where there isn’t any plug-in power, he immediately realized that they would be essential for his shoot. So, with a phone call back to our offices in Connecticut, the LitePads and accessories were on their way to Production Junction later in the day.

One of the things I like best about running Visual Departures is meeting other shooters (in all media), learning about their needs and experiences, and being able to introduce them to the tools and resources (not necessarily our own) that will be of real help in the studio and on location. Because we have dealers like Production Junction all over the country, just send us an email if you think we can help solve a problem for you.

“Smash His Camera!” – Capturing the Heyday of the Paparazzi

Smash His Camera poster

A few weeks ago, HBO began airing a 10-week series of independently-produced documentaries. I’ve seen the first three, and they are all superb–much credit is due to Sheila Nevins, president of HBO’s documentary division. Anyway, the first of the series is called Smash His Camera (directed by Leon Gast.) Its subject is Ron Galella, the celebrity photographer whose fame/notoriety began with his relentless pursuit of Jackie Kennedy.

You may not know Galella’s name, but he certainly became America’s first brand-name paparazzo. In the course of the documentary, there are numerous interviews with other photographers (among them Neil Leifer and Harry Benson), editors, columnists, and curators. Opinions on Galella and his work are all over the map. And Gast repeatedly uses clips from Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, which was the first exposure most people had to the word “paparazzo.”

Early in my own career, I worked a lot for the AP, covering the full range of wire-service subjects: politics, sports, gangland murders, and ‘celebrities.’ I do hate that word, which has been defined over the years by many people (I don’t know who said it first, but it sounds like something from Dorothy Parker)  as “famous for being famous.” One of my colleagues in those late ’60s–early ’70s AP years was a man named Felice Quinto. Raspy-voiced, always smoking, and with lots of great stories in his heavily Italian-accented English, Quinto was a fine photographer, never afraid to wade right into the scrum of a breaking news event. Early on, I remember being told that he was in fact the role model for Paparazzo, the star-hunting photographer in La Dolce Vita.

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Expanding the Walls: A New Generation of Documentarians and Cameras

A couple of weeks ago, in a special section of the New York Times devoted to museums, Corey Kilgannon wrote a great piece about a yearly program called ‘Expanding the Walls’ at the Studio Museum in Harlem. This year, a dozen girls, all of them black or Hispanic and with no prior photographic experience (other than the point-and-shoot picture taking that is a part of everybody’s life), were given professional digital cameras along with the training needed to let them go forth in their communities to document their own lives and those of family, friends, and neighborhoods.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of such programs; in fact, they are probably in place in numerous communities throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. But two things caught my eye –

Expanding the Walls is based on the way the late James Van Der Zee approached his life’s work of photographing the people of Harlem in the 20th century. Van Der Zee (who died in 1983) came to wide renown only toward the end of his career, and the dignity he conferred on his subjects shows in all his images. So beyond the technical training the girls have received, they have been learning the direct connection between the photographs they are taking now and the pictures of Mr. Van Der Zee and other documentary photographers.

The other thing that drew my eye was the photograph at the top of the story. I looked carefully at the photo (by NYT staff shooter Marilynn K. Yee) and saw that the cameras in the hands of the girls in the photo are both Canon G11s. I have no way of knowing if the G11 is the only camera being used in the program, but it’s a wonderful choice.

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