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EYE ON THE 60s CELEBRATES A PHOTOGRAPHER’S VIEW

Film Review by Mark Schumann “THE REEL DAD”
The Ridgefield Press (Hersamacorn Media) November 20, 2014

A friend of mine who loves movies refuses to watch documentaries. While I suggest this view limits his cinema experience, he responds that, if he wants to watch real people on screen, he can turn his television to the real housewives. After I speculate that reality shows may not be all that real, I urge him to consider how documentary films create magic on screen by using the lens to explore a person’s soul, a chapter in history or a moment in time we may never experience in real-time. This weekend, the Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society brings a special documentary — Eye On The 60s: The Iconic Photography of Rowland Scherman — that could change my friend’s view. With a keen sense of purpose, and a sincere respect for the subject, director Chris Szwedo beautifully describes a man’s journey as a photojournalist and the moments of time his camera captures. Without trying to tell too much story, or make too much of the story he tells, Szwedo uses his camera to go inside Scherman’s creative mind just as the photographer uses his lens to reach behind the eyes of his subjects. The result is a fascinating chance to revisit a momentous time in our nation’s history and to celebrate the art a camera can produce. This man’s view of his world challenges us to take a closer look at the paths we walk each day.

With Scherman’s commentary serving as the narration, Szwedo celebrates the photographer’s uncanny ability to find himself in the middle of many milestone moments of the 1960s, from the early days of the Peace Corps to the March on Washington to the music of Woodstock. Without taking himself too seriously, and always respecting the seriousness of his work, Scherman reveals the accidental journey his career followed as he discovered his passion for using a camera to capture the souls of people and the meaning of moments. He credits good fortune with much of his success, never suggesting that he became one of the nation’s leading photojournalists — and a favorite of Life Magazine — because he is good. Instead he refers to the places he visits and the people he observes as reasons for his accomplishments although he does acknowledge, with a smile, that he could move around with agility in his younger years. “I see the light shining out of people and I trip the shutter when I see that happen,” he comments about his work. “I see images that tell a story. If I can show how I feel about someone, maybe I should be photographing that person.”

With commentary from Scherman’s friend Tom Clark, and singer Judy Collins, director Szwedo paints a picture of a humble man who wonders if he “became a professional by accident.” Instead of building a case for the importance of Scherman’s accomplishments, Szwedo lets the work speak for itself, filling the film with incredible images the photographer captured during the decade, from celebrities (including The Beatles and Bob Dylan) to politicians (JFK, LBJ and RFK) to ordinary citizens experiencing incredible times. As the director explores the artist’s craft, he reveals a touching sentiment when Scherman observes that technology may make it too easy to take photographs, warmly recalling the dials and calculations that defined his routine.

By using so many of his photographs — and letting Scherman tell his story — Szwedo enhances our sense of discovery. We revisit a time that changed the world as we reach inside the creative mind of a man who preserved so many moments. As Scherman remarks, “my job is to document the movement of people. I am a fly on a wall.” For us, our memories of those moments are richer because this man chooses, as he describes, to “take snaps.”

5 Popcorn Buckets!
EYE ON THE 60s: The Iconic Photography of Rowland Scherman
A FILM BY CHRIS SZWEDO
With Rowland Scherman, Judy Collins, Richard B. Stolley, and Tom Clark
88 minutes

© 2015 Chris Szwedo Productions | cszwedo@comcast.net