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Matinee: Franco Vogt's 'Faces 2017' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

6 January 2018

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 131st in our series of Saturday matinees today: Franco Vogt's Faces 2017.

Franco Vogt was a Navy brat whose mother was Italian. Growing up he lived in Iceland, Maine, Chicago, and Florida, not to mention traveling all over Europe, too.

His father was an amateur photographer who devised a black-and-white darkroom wherever the family lived. Franco caught the bug and became, years later, a portrait photographer.

The trick to it? He explains:

My goal is to help my subjects look their most authentic selves. To do this, I try to make technique and equipment feel virtually invisible. I relish capturing emotional connections and unguarded moments and allowing space for happy accidents. Even after all these years, whenever I pick up a camera, I know this is still what I love most to do.

This video recaps his portraiture for 2017 -- and it goes by much too quickly. The only saving grace, really, is that each smiling face is replaced by another. You wonder if Vogt doesn't inhabit the happiest community on earth.

So very quickly we found ourselves asking what was going on here. These were not celebrities, dolled up by professional makeup artists. Nor were they merely Bob Ross-like "happy accidents."

They were real people, familiar faces. But they all had something spectacular about them. It was as if each one of them had been captured with the best smile they had ever had.

Which reminded us of a story.

Years ago we worked on a kibbutz in the Huliot Valley in northern Israel running a lift that left us pick pears. We managed to outlast all our other American volunteers but eventually we too fell ill with what turned out to be intestinal parasites.

It was as if each one of them had been captured with the best smile they had ever had.

Once a week a doctor would visit the kibbutz and when we were called into the office to see him, we worried our Hebrew (which amounted to ordering a beer and greetings based on the time of day) wouldn't cut it. The white haired physician took one look at us and asked, "What's cooking?" It turned out he was from Los Angeles spending his vacation as a volunteer medical care provider.

Opium was the prescription and never did anyone ingest that blessed drug with less entertaining side effects than ourselves. We were so sick it might as well have been aspirin. Not that we complained; it did the job.

What we lacked in hallucinations was made up for by the sight of Dini Rosen bringing us chicken from the kibbutz kitchen until we were well enough to walk to the dining hall. Hardly anyone got chicken on the kibbutz. So, despite our frail condition, we were envied by all the other volunteers.

Years later Dini visited San Francisco and we made a point to take the day off to show her around. She had, after all, saved our life.

We especially remember one thing she said on that visit. Walking around downtown she marveled at the relaxed look on the faces of the people on the street. It's nothing like in Israel, she said, where everyone is always worried.

We'd never noticed that.

And looking at Vogt's video we had something like that same revelation. Those faces. Lit by those smiles. The best smiles any of his subjects had ever had. Transforming each of them.

But it isn't a trick. It isn't false.

It is, instead, a revelation of the real beauty of each of these people. You will simply be astonished as each face appears how beautiful that person seems. It can hardly be true. You wish you knew each one of them.

But it is true. It's the only thing that's true. And Vogt has managed to conserve that truth in his camera and, in this video, share it with the world.

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