Documentary

Section



Art Documentary

Meet Mark Landis, One of the Most Prolific Art Forgers in U.S. History

January 22, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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The Avante/Garde Diaries recently released these two brief clips of an interview with master art forger Mark Landis who for the last 20 years created dozens if not hundreds of convincing art forgeries including works by Picasso which he then donated to institutions around the United States including over 50 art museums. Landis would often arrive at the museums dressed as a jesuit priest with elaborate stories of how he had acquired the artworks he subsequently donated. Incredibly, after a 2007 investigation it was determined that Landis may not have actually broken any laws. He never once tried to profit from the fake artworks but instead seemed to gain enough satisfaction from fooling curatorial staff members at various institutions. While the interviews above by the Avante/Garde Diaries are not a comprehensive documentary, they are a fascinating glimpse into the world of this rather bizarre man.

Last year curators Matthew Leininger and Aaron Cowan collected some 90 forged artworks by Landis, as well as his “jesuit father” costume (donated by the forger himself) and held an exhibition called Faux Real at the Dorothy W. and C. Lawson Reed Jr. Gallery in Cincinnati.

 

 



Art Documentary

An Austin Man Builds a Cathedral of Junk

September 20, 2012

Christopher Jobson

This is a fascinating and touching glimpse into the ongoing art installation of Austin, Texas resident Vince Hannemann (aka the Junk King) who since 1989 has been collecting thousands of discarded objects and turning them into a giant cathedral of junk. In 2010 the city closed the structure claiming it was unsafe and demanded Hannemann obtain proper building permits for his “auxiliary structure”. He was then forced to remove nearly 60 tons of materials before finally obtaining the approval from an engineer. Over seven months hundreds of volunteers stopped by to lend a hand and the cathedral has begun expanding once again. Shot and edited by Evan Burns. Last photo by Blake Gordon. (via vimeo)

 

 



Craft Documentary

Everything is Incredible: A Man Ravaged by Polio Spends his Life Building a Helicopter from Trash

September 11, 2012

Christopher Jobson

I honestly have no idea where or when I first saw this film, but it’s stuck with me for over a year, and unable to find it again after searching the past few days I turned to Jason Sondi over at Vimeo. Armed with my vague description, and despite never having seen it himself, he found it in about 10 seconds.

Everything is Incredible is a short documentary by Tyler Bastian, Trevor Hill and Tim Skousen about a man named Agustín from Siguatepeque, Honduras who was struck with polio at a young age. His body ravaged from disease, he was left unable to walk and spent most of his life working as a shoemaker in what is described as near-poverty. Possibly plagued by childhood dreams of flight, in 1958 he embarked on his life’s work: the construction of a crude, custom-designed helicopter made completely from trash with the exception of a few pieces of rebar purchased from a hardware store. Even the chains he uses to power the propeller were forged by hand. The filmmakers do a wonderful job interviewing local residents and family for their reactions that vary from hope to despair. I find this video to be both very beautiful and very sad as it discusses what is gained and what is sacrificed through the act of devotion and creation, yet I’m left feeling a profound sense of love for Agustín, which is perhaps why it’s stuck with me for so long. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time. Thanks Jason.

Also, if you liked this, check out the exceedingly bizarre Welcome to Planet Earth: The UFO Welcome Center.

Update: In response to recent attention the filmmakers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough funds help Agustín with living expenses by purchasing the helicopter and his home. He will of course retain both through the end of his life, but with the funds raised from the campaign the helicopter itself would be preserved in his memory. Go donate, I did.

 

 



Amazing Documentary

Samsara: 5 Years, 25 Countries, 100 Filming Locations

July 27, 2012

Christopher Jobson

Samsara is the first film by director and cinematographer Ron Fricke (Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka) in nearly 20 years. Following in the footsteps of his earlier work, it will be completely devoid of dialogue and text, relying solely on compelling visuals shot on 70mm film.

Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, Samsara transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, Samsara subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

I am ridiculously excited to see this film. It opens in the U.S. on August 24th in a few cities and then has a larger release on September 7th so check release dates. Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer above full-screen.

 

 



Documentary Photography

Haunting Portraits of the Homeless by Lee Jeffries

December 21, 2011

Christopher Jobson

Manchester-based photographer Lee Jeffries is an accountant by profession but for the past few years he’s traveled around the world photographing people he encounters on the streets, particularly the homeless. He spends time getting to know each of his subjects before shooting them, which I think is completely evident in his work, as the stark portraits seem to suggest details of each individuals life, taking a hard unflinching look at their personal condition. Jeffries was just announced as the Digital Camera Photographer of the Year and you can read more about him at the Independent. (via impose)

 

 



Documentary Photography

Serpentine: Beautiful Portraits of the World's Most Deadly Snakes

November 22, 2011

Christopher Jobson

For the past year LA-based photographer Mark Laita has been traveling to various locations around the U.S. and Central America photographing some of the world’s most deadliest snakes, a series entitled Serpentine. Of the project he says:

The sensual attractiveness of snakes, which coexists with their threatening, unpredictable and mysterious nature is truly unique. This dichotomy, in which their beauty seems to be heightened by their danger, and vice-versa, is what I find so fascinating. Add to these contradictions the rich symbolism of serpents and you have a wonderfully compelling subject.

Laita works with collectors, breeders, zoos, and even anti-venom labs who let him photograph their snake collections. But as you can imagine snake handling can be dangerous work. Just last week on a photo shoot in Costa Rica, he tangoed with a Black Mambo (last photo), the longest venomous snake in Africa that can grow up to 14 feet long. So what kind of risk did you take at work today?

See also his beautiful if somewhat heartbreaking catalog of ornithological specimens entitled Amaranthine, and some exquisite images of sea life. All images courtesy the artist. (via feature shoot)