A film about photography will always be difficult, and a film about photographers discussing their photographs even more so. People *Love* Photos is documentary from the UK-based Amadelio film makers, which follows four photographers around their homes and studios as they make and discuss their work. It’s an esoteric and highly specialised art-house film.
The film is split into three parts. The first follows Tanyth Berkeley around her home town of New York City. She photographs subjects in their natural surroundings, such as in the park or along the street. She chooses people with extreme looks, attempting to find the beauty behind the façade. Her photos are tender yet also striking, creating an interesting biography of life in the city.
The second part follows Ashley MacLean and Traci Matlock, who photograph under their pseudonyms of Rose and Olive, as they photograph around their ranch in Houston, Texas. Their photography is highly sexualised, and the models are photographed in various states of undress, in the forest or on the gravel street, asleep or, strangely, eating vegetables.
At one point the artists take shots of each other cracking raw eggs against each other whilst half naked. Their photographs become more shocking as the violence of sexuality is portrayed: we see fingers covered in blood, buttocks and thighs covered in thick bruises as underwear is crudely pulled away.
Traci and Ashley aim to show the joy of the physical body, as well as the vulnerability inherent in nakedness. Their art is shocking and treads a fine line between being artistic and pornographic.
The final subject of the film is Elinor Carucci, an Israeli-born photographer now resident in New York City. She is the most modest artist in the film, photographing herself, her children, and her parents. Her aim is to show motherhood through her own muted eyes and to challenge ideas of shock and disgust often formed by perceptions of motherhood.
We are treated to photos of her body two days after giving birth, complete with sagging stomach and the stitches covering the scars left from the caesarean section. There is the breastfeeding of her twins. There is a photo of an open toilet full of the artist’s own menstrual blood, and slightly disturbing shots of her sitting semi-naked on her bed next to her father. However, the photos remain sensual rather than gratuitous and reveal a real joy in the concept of motherhood.
People *Love* Photos is only interesting to a point and is difficult to watch. It’s boring even when it is shocking, and at times watching it is like wading through treacle. On the positive side it has a haunting piano soundtrack giving it a mysterious atmosphere. However it is also amateurish, the camerawork sometimes jarring and the sound often muffled. As a film it tries too hard to be artistic and not hard enough to be professional. It’s too specialised to have mainstream appeal and ultimately will only be of interest to artists and students of photography.Tweet