Other People's Pictures

  • 2004
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

Why would anyone collect discarded photographs of people they don't know? Not celebrities or models or people of historical importance, just regular people on vacation, attending birthday parties or mugging for the camera. "Why would people collect anything?" counters Fern Rickman, one of nine snapshot enthusiasts profiled in Lorca Shepperd and Cabot Philbrick's...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Why would anyone collect discarded photographs of people they don't know? Not celebrities or models or people of historical importance, just regular people on vacation, attending birthday parties or mugging for the camera. "Why would people collect anything?" counters Fern Rickman, one of nine snapshot enthusiasts profiled in Lorca Shepperd and Cabot Philbrick's short, intriguing documentary. The filmmakers haunted New York's Chelsea Flea Market searching out snapshot fans, most of whom prove strikingly perceptive and articulate about the impulses that drive them. Some collect like postcard enthusiasts, gravitating toward certain categories of images: Halloween, beach frolics, crime, dolls, pets, swimmers, nudes or women dressed to the nines, pictures in which the photographer's shadow oozes into frame like some malevolent imp or snapshots mutilated to remove an offending subject. Others admire the accidental aesthetics of amateur images, sublime surrealities created by weird framing, odd subject matter — a conga line of dogs, anyone? — or curious accidents of perspective and proportion. But most collectors are seduced by the stories these stray, frozen images imply. Drew Naprawa is self-consciously re-creating the family albums his mother threw away when she joined a religious cult, and likes to imagine that his own discarded memories made their way into the hands of someone like him. Leslie Apodaca focuses on old images of men hugging, sitting on each other's laps, striking muscle-man poses together. He feels he's saving a little piece of queer history, he says, while readily admitting that he might be reading his own desires into the two-dimensional ambiguity of faded images. Japanese-American Don Sumada, who was raised in Hawaii, is equally attracted to vintage palm-trees-and-hula kitsch and pictures of ethnic families in the Aloha State. Lisa Kahane prefers feisty women defying traditional gender stereotypes, while Fern, who works with developmentally challenged adults, particularly loves a small cache of photos depicting a little girl with Down syndrome. Dan Lenchner, who lost much of his father's family to concentration camps, gravitates towards "banality of evil photos" — candid shots of Nazis at home. He displays them on a wall alongside pictures of his own martyred relatives — morbid perhaps, but not loony. Ouija boards, comic books, antique absinthe spoons — one person's junk is another's treasure, and some of the collections the filmmakers showcase are enough to make your fingers itch for a box of wrinkled photos through which to sift.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Why would anyone collect discarded photographs of people they don't know? Not celebrities or models or people of historical importance, just regular people on vacation, attending birthday parties or mugging for the camera. "Why would people collect anythin… (more)

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