Photography Films

Sebastião Salgado

Films about photographers don’t come along too often, so to find two photographic releases this year is rather surprising, especially given the people who are the centre of interest. The first is ‘The Salt of the Earth‘, the documentary/biopic about Sebastião Salgado, the world famous photographer. Almost as interesting as the subject is the team that have directed this film. Wim Wenders is the renowned film director, but he also has penchant for turning out some great photography too (in fact the first time I heard of Wenders was in a photographic context), mainly taken during his travels scouting for film locations. It is of no surprise then, that his photographs are somewhat reportage in their style, usually making great use of the natural light that he searches for both as film director and photographer. The other director is none other than Sebastião’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. A quick search for his film credits brings a return of a grand total of three films (directed) including this one. Indeed, there is not much information readily available on him. However, judging by an interview for the Cannes Film festival he followed in his father’s footsteps from an early age, photographing in Afganistan and filming an anti-landmine documentary in Angola amongst other projects. I look forward to the general release of the film although the chances of it being shown in Singapore would seem quite remote as placing it among the myriad Marvel movies being shown each week wouldn’t seem to be a market winner!

The second film is regarding an altogether different kind of photographer. Entitled ‘Looking For Light: Jane Bown’, the film seeks to explore the life of the somewhat shy and retiring figure of ex-Observer photographer Jane Bown. Born in 1925, her career has spanned over five decades of photographing celebrities in gorgeous black and white. In a male dominated industry, although quiet and often seemingly in the background, she developed ‘elbows’ which enabled her to take some of the most enduring images that The Observer archive possesses. Although released in the UK on DVD in May 2014, I haven’t seen the film here in Singapore yet so it may be one to order from Amazon.

Jane Bown, far right, photographing Bette Davis in 1975

Both of these photographers work predominantly in black and white. Bown simply because colour film didn’t exist when she started and Salgado because of his obsession with with grey tones. As with all photography, but especially black and white, the photographer seeks light and shade for their art. It is with good fortune that these two films coincide with my ‘light’ project in The Art of Photography course although they would definitely be films to watch irrespective of the circumstance.


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