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The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography (2016)

2:14 | Trailer
A look at the life and work of photographer Elsa Dorfman.


Errol Morris


Elsa Dorfman





Credited cast:
Elsa Dorfman ... Self


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.

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Plot Keywords:

photographer | See All (1) »


The camera is magic. September 2, 2015 See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some graphic nude images and brief language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Elsa Dorfman: The camera is like a fork or a spoon. It's an instrument you eat your soup with. It's not the soup.
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  • Jonathan Richman

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User Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars Errol Morris taking a breather from heavy-tone and spends a delightful time with an eccentric artist. Worth seeing, for sure.
8 January 2021 | by RMurray847See all my reviews

I saw this delightful little film at our local "art house" cinema this weekend. It's a light, airy but entertaining work from Errol Morris, who apparently is actually a friend of the film's subject, Elsa Dorfman. Elsa Dorfman is a photographer of some renown, who truly carved a niche for herself when she began doing portraits on the amazing large format Polaroids. She's now staring retirement in the face because Polaroid is no longer making the film she needs. Morris has caught her at a time of looking back, of reflection on her career and life. She's a bit melancholy but also cheerful. Dorfman is just an interesting subject to spend time with. She's a delightfully quirky lady who offers refreshingly honest and unpretentious observations about art (mostly hers). This is not a philosophical film...it's more about capturing the life and enthusiasms of a well-known, if not quite famous, photographer. That she happened to be great friends with many Beat artists, particularly Ginsberg, is an added plus, because she has some delightful stories to share.

This is an easy, conversation movie about art, an artist, and the life of an artist. It's not glamorous, but it also doesn't wallow in "oh, the suffering one must endure for art." Dorfman is a practical person. Morris gently prods her for insights...but there's nothing here that's too biting or cutting. We get to see lots of her portraits, and many are indeed delightful. This was a feel-good movie...brisk and breezy and nice to look at. I do very much recommend it.

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Release Date:

30 June 2017 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,035, 2 July 2017

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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