Monday, June 02, 2014

Royalty Close Up (2013)

     Royalty Close Up (2013) On TVO. About Kent Gavin, who learned photography by working at it when he was hired by The Mirror, which was always a tabloid, but back then was still a family tabloid. He became photographer of the Royals more or less by accident, and many of the most memorable images of them were his. He also photographed war, sports, and “general news”, and excelled in all genres. Why? Because he loved to take pictures of people, and because he learned how to see the picture through the lens. He mastered his craft before digital, when film, even for a daily paper, was expensive. He developed a knack for waiting for the right moment.
     His relationship with the Royals was complex and oddly personal. Not that he was ever an intimate friend, but they came to rely on him for “good” photos that told the story they wanted to tell. His remarks on the Royal’s awareness of the power of photography and publicity generally display an acute intelligence and deep understanding of how public images are created and propagated. He knows that ultimately a good photo depends on the relationship between photographer and subject, not between subject and camera; a good subject is one who likes the person wielding the camera. Even Diana, who liked being photographed, is better in Gant’s photos than in other peoples’, at least to my eyes.
     Gavin clearly wanted to tell a good story about the Royals and just as clearly wanted to the story to be the truth, even if it wasn’t the whole truth. That’s why we now expect candid photos that display the Royals’ (and other celebrities’) reactions to the events they witness. Unlike the paparazzi, Gavin did not want to trap or trick his subjects into revealing those aspects of themselves that none of us want to be made public.
     The film is sectioned into chapters about the Queen, Diana, Charles, etc. It’s worth watching, more as a seminar on how to take pictures than for still more revelations about the Royals. The music is cliched and therefore feels obtrusive to me. The photos are wonderful; I would have liked to have more screen time with them. **½

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