Portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman found her medium in 1980: the larger-than-life Polaroid Land 20x24 camera. For the next thirty-five years she captured the "surfaces" of those who visited her Cambridge, Massachusetts studio: families, Beat poets, rock stars, and Harvard notables. As pictures begin to fade and her retirement looms, Dorfman gives Errol Morris an inside tour of her backyard archive.
It's sort of like a reservoir that's in me that's operating but I'm not thinking about it when I actually have... the camera is in my hands. I'm really guided by unconscious. Sounds kind of mystical. I think I take my best pictures when my head isn't cluttered with other things.
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A peacefully satisfying and nicely edited off-camera interview which reveals the life and life's work of a portrait photographer, most of whose work was uniquely captured using one of the 5 (or so) huge 20x24 inch Polaroid cameras. Her portrait sittings consisted of two poses, and having lovingly saved the print not chosen/purchased by each client, she reflects on these 'b- side' but powerful images beginning in the early 70's of everyday people, a few of the famous, and many of herself and her family.
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