“Photography in Film” – from Latvian Documentary Films to Hitchcock

“Photography in Film” – from Latvian Documentary Films to Hitchcock
Publicity photo / Riga Film Museum . Programme “Photography in Film” to close with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”
Una Griškeviča
Documentary film screenings “The History of Latvian Photography in Photo-Films and Newsreels of the 1980s” will open the Riga Film Museum’s documentary film programme “Photography in Film” on Wednesday, the 7th of May. The programme will run for three weeks. Līva Pētersone, the curator of the project, and Arnis Balčus and Inga Brūvere tell us that the film programme, which is part of the Riga Photo Month, is envisaged as an extended story about photography: “We hope that the programme will prompt the interest of photography experts and the general public alike.”

“On the first evening, the 7th of May, Latvian documentary films about photography will be screened. These are true treasures that were retrieved from the Archive of Audiovisual Documents so we could make copies. Furthermore, these films have never been shown to the general public as they have been unavailable in a digital format until now,” says Līva, noting that the following films will be presented to the viewers on the first night of film screenings: “Putniņa izlidošana” (Birdie Takes Wing, 1979) and “Spoguļa dziļums” (The Mirror’s Depth, 1980) – two stories by film director Aivars Freimanis about the history of Latvian photography, and two photo-films by Gunārs Binde made entirely from still photos and highly acclaimed in world film history. “All who take an interest in photography know about the French director Marker’s cult film “La Jetée” – a classical photo-film that consists of individual still photos. Gunārs Binde has also made such films,” explains Līva, reminding us that the first night’s programme also includes the 1966 newsreel “Māksla” (Art) and the 1979 newsreel “Soviet Latvia” by the prominent film director Herz Frank.

Līva Pētersone goes on to say that the other three film nights will be as exciting, offering filmgoers an insight into films about the history of Latvian photography that were shot in the 1960s-1980s, a road movie that will take viewers through the world of pop-culture phenomena together with one of the greatest American contemporary photographers, the nostalgic quality of photography, and a blockbuster linking up the process of watching – both in film and in photography – with voyeuristic inclinations. “The film evenings will be very different. For example, “Cinévardaphoto”, a title which you cannot really translate into any language, is a triptych of director Agnès Varda’s short films “Ydessa, The Bears and Etc” that are as if combined into one film. Agnès Varda has also worked as a photojournalist, therefore she knows the profession of a photographer very well. In these films she analyses her own photography, revealing that photography is a tool to help nostalgic memories emerge, and talks about the phenomenon of collecting photographs,” Līva describes the May 15 programme.

A video from Agnès Varda's film is available here:


She believes that two more films are noteworthy, of which one is Michael Almereyda’s “William Eggleston in the Real World” (2005, U.S.) – a story about an acclaimed photographer who accompanies the film director on a tour of America – Kentucky, Los Angeles, New York and Memphis, taking photos everywhere they go. “William Eggleston is famous for making colour photography an artistic medium – thanks to Eggleston, colour photographs made their way to art galleries and museums.

He has also photographed a large number of American pop culture phenomena – roadside fast-food restaurants, American cars, memorable American individuals.”

A video from the film “William Eggleston in the Real World” is available here:


The programme will close on the 29th of May with Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”. “Of course, the film possesses Hitchcock’s signature suspense that only this director could so masterfully maintain in a film. The film is about a wheelchair-bound photographer who begins to observe his neighbours across the courtyard, becoming convinced that they have committed murder. But that’s only the surface – just like so many other Hitchcock’s films this, too, seems to be a very simple story to watch as it reaches the climax. On the other hand, all films by Hitchcock deal with very important themes, and this particular film is considered, in film history, to be a powerful story about what a film actually is, and – in a broader sense – what looking through a camera lens really means,” explains Līva Pētersone, adding that, indeed, the protagonist may be considered a voyeur spying on his neighbours and making his own interpretations of what he has seen.

“It’s a story within a story – we, the public, are watching the screen whereas this photographer is watching his neighbours. In my opinion, seeing this film prompts us to think how voyeuristic we actually are – both when we go to movies or when delve into photographs.”

The film programme is very diverse and specific, notes Līva, saying that it could be interesting to both photography experts and the general public, although the latter will probably be more interested in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”. “Those who will follow the events of the Photo Month could be as interested in the film about William Eggleston, I think, although this name may be largely unknown to the general public. We mostly wanted to show that photography is something much more than just photographic film, that there are very many documentaries about famous photographers.” Trimming the programme so it would fit into four film evenings was very hard, she admits. “I’d like to emphasise that all films will be screened free of charge, you only have to remember that there is room for about forty people in the Film Museum’s auditorium. What will we do if more people come to see Hitchcock’s film? Maybe we’ll organise reruns,” Līva says laughingly, adding that no outdoor screenings are planned this time.

More information about the films and screening times is available on the website of the Riga Film Museum.


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