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Portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman found her medium in 1980: the larger-than-life Polaroid Land 20x24 camera.

Courtesy of Mongrel

3 out of 4 stars

Title
The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography
Written by
Errol Morris
Directed by
Errol Morris
Classification
PG
Country
USA
Language
English

In this stealthily engaging bio, the famed American documentarian Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) leaves off the exposé and the investigation to concentrate on the cheerful Elsa Dorfman, photographer to the stars of the 1960s and 70s counterculture scene. More recently, the Cambridge, Mass., photographer has made a business of happy family portraits executed as large-scale Polaroids. But Polaroid was sold off, the film for its large-format cameras is no longer available and Dorfman doesn't know where her archives will wind up. She's retiring now, but if this doc is sometimes elegiac in tone, there is nothing mournful about it. Dorfman is too much the odd-ball optimist, telling funny anecdotes – a lifelong friendship with poet Allen Ginsberg began when she was a young publishing-house secretary and he asked for some mysterious thing called "the can" – and tossing off provocative insights into the nature of photography and life.

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