The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography

  • Errol Morris
  • United States
  • 2016
  • 76 min
  • European Premiere
  • Masters
For more than 30 years, Elsa Dorfman (b. 1937) photographed both famous and unknown subjects using a rare large-format Polaroid camera at her studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now Polaroid has stopped making the film, and as Dorfman is approaching retirement, she gives friend and filmmaker Errol Morris a tour of her wide-ranging archive. It largely consists of what she describes as “B-sides”: in each session she took two photographs, the better of which her subject would take home. There are portraits of a wide variety of distinguished figures, including her good friend the beat poet Allen Ginsberg, along with the other writers, poets and musicians with whom she surrounded herself in her youth. She also photographed herself and her family. Dorfman reminisces as she leafs through the thousands of 20x24-inch Polaroid photos, each of which has a story attached. Her subjects, invariably smiling against a white background in these uncomplicatedly superficial pictures, seem to reflect Dorfman’s amiable, optimistic personality.

Credits

  • 76 min
  • color / black and white
  • DCP
  • Spoken languages: English
Director
Errol Morris
Production
Steven Hathaway
Cinematography
Nathan Allen Swingle
Editing
Steven Hathaway
Music
Paul Leonard-Morgan

IDFA history

2016
European Premiere
Masters

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IDFA history

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