“If you had been searching your whole life for something you love and you found it, what would you be willing to sacrifice?”
The Laboratory is an international arts collective based in London and Los Angeles that produces a bi-annual publication called BUILD. BUILD is a publication that celebrates film & art, endeavouring to redefine what a magazine actually is & can be.
In the feature length documentary The Picture Show, filmmaker Lauren Vance delves into the lives of the residents of Slab City, California, and the work of wet plate artist Ian Ruhter as he spends time making collodion ambrotypes, documenting the people who live there. This, ‘The Carnival of Dreams’ is essentially a film-within-a-film, a 30 minute article focusing on Gary Oldman joining Ruhter at Slab City to take pictures a feature in the next issue of BUILD.
This visual essay serves as a taster for the feature length documentary as we briefly meet some of the residents of ‘the last free place in America’ and here snippets of the kind of stories that must be heard to be believed. The film also has another focus – on the friendship, both professional and personal, between Oldman and Ruhter. The men are untied in their passion for photography and their creativity – their want to explore both the alchemy of collodion photography and those on the fringes of a society that has still found its own sense of community.
The end result is therefore multilayered. An aperitif for an extended documentary; a sample of the work of The Laboratory and a taster of an extraordinary type of photography.
Review written after attending preview screening and Q&A with Gary Oldman & Gisele Schmidt at BFI Southbank on December 9th.
Dir: Lauren Vance
Year: 2016 Run time:30 minutes
Featuring: Gary Oldman, Ian Ruhter, Gisele Schmidt.