TIME On Our Radar

Go Inside the Unexpected Lives of Contemporary Photographers

In Reely and Truly, Tyrone Lebon offers an unorthodox, behind-the-scenes take on photography

Tyrone Lebon‘s short documentary film Reely and Truly succinctly describes itself as a “visual poem on contemporary photographers and their practices.” Shot on all the available analogue, celluloid formats (65mm, 35mm, Super 16mm and Super 8mm) the film’s cinéma-vérité approach reveals as much about the individual, independent photographers it features, as it does about their distinct and disparate work.

The son of an unorthodox and ground-breaking fashion photographer and filmmaker, Lebon grew up in London—during the 1990s—within a creatively stimulating environment of collaboratively-minded practitioners and independent publications. His father Mark Lebon (an early and regular contributor to i-D magazine and a member of the influential West London collective, Buffalo) has clearly been a massive influence, and fittingly the documentary is, playfully and somewhat unconventionally, introduced by him—as the younger Lebon states, from his personal perspective, “if this is a film about photography it should start with him.”

The film features candid vignettes of 20 photographers, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Nigel Shafran, Sean Vegezzi and a number of segments on Juergen Teller—a photographer who, Lebon says, stood out for him in his formative years. “Through my teens I would pick up magazines when the most successful photography was the shiny school of fashion photography—which to me couldn’t be more soul-less and uninteresting—so Juergen’s work stood out as honest. I felt emotion and stories in his pictures and was drawn to that.”

Lebon orginally planned to make a full-length film piece dedicated to Teller, who—although initially reticent to being filmed—ultimately gave Lebon incredible access. The two met regularly over a six-month period, filming in London and traveling together to Germany and India—to document the photographer both at work, and play.

The results, as with the other featured photographers, are often unexpected and revealing—and give insight to the process and personalities of those involved.

The 29 minutes and 17 seconds of Reely and Truly serve as a brief socio-anthropological study of contemporary independent photography, which informed by Lebon’s own influences and experiences—his family and upbringing, his education (he has an MA in social anthropology) and his own perspective as a photographer—produce an intimate and raw mash up of material, that ultimately feels like a sketch for a bigger piece. Which is exactly what it is. Lebon’s ambitions for the project are many-fold and include plans to make a book of photographs with an accompanying series of short portrait films for each of his subjects.

In the meantime, Reely and Truly is being screened within the context of a traveling exhibition, “a lie about a lie; a truth about The truth”, that includes work from the photographers featured in the film and extends to a wider community of image makers —both established and emerging—who contribute to Lebon’s online platform DoBeDo.

The documentary film, Reely and Truly and accompanying exhibition “a lie about a lie; a truth about The truth” will be on show at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, Canada until Feb. 28.

Phil Bicker is a senior photo editor at TIME.

TIME movies

Documentary Questions Lewis Carroll’s Relationship With ‘Alice’ Inspiration

Alice Liddell  -   taken by Lewis Carroll
Lebrecht Authors / Getty Images A photograph of Alice Liddell taken by Lewis Carroll in 1858

But is there any scholarly evidence of Carroll’s perceived pedophilia?

History Today logoThis post is in partnership with History Today. The article below was originally published at HistoryToday.com.

The screening last week of a new BBC documentary, The Secret World of Lewis Carroll, attracted eye-catching headlines: ‘The Victorian Jimmy Savile’ and ‘repressed paedophile’ being among the more dramatic examples.

Presented by journalist Martha Kearney and timed to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the documentary explored the controversy surrounding Carroll’s friendship with children and his obsession with photography.

The question that has dogged Carroll’s more recent biographers is one mired in Victorian sensuality and sexuality. Are the photographs he took of young girls simply, as he maintained, an exploration of innocence? Or is there a darker, more dangerous motivation behind them?

The programme makers have a clear agenda: to make their viewer aware of the possible subtext behind Carroll’s work and attempt to provide the evidence for it. Interestingly, almost all the experts interviewed either deny or were noncommittal on their interpretation of the evidence for Carroll’s supposed sexual deviance. The only person who seemed in agreement with the idea of Carroll’s paedophilia was the author, Will Self, who, in surprising contrast, has written of his own anger at the perceived culture of paedophile hysteria, which caused him to be questioned by police while out for a country walk with his son.

The idea that the third most quoted literary work in the world, behind only Shakespeare and the Bible, was authored by a man harbouring a dangerous intent towards his young friends is obviously an attractive prospect for television. But, in a world where history is presented as popular culture, just how accurate do programme makers need to be?

Martha Kearney makes it clear that she does not want to believe the rumours surrounding Carroll and the young Liddell girls. We are told not to judge the Victorians by the morals of today; that the age of consent was only 12; that there was a Victorian photographic school that focused on the depiction of nude children. But this is all done with a firmly persuasive hand, impressing on you that while we may not be able to prove Carroll definitely was a paedophile, we also can’t definitely prove that he wasn’t either – and this question hangs over the entire programme, constantly returned to by expert and fan alike.

So where were the revisionist historians? The Karoline Leaches, The Jenny Woolfs? Both authors have, in new studies into the ‘Carroll Myth’, exposed our reliance on the biographers of the 1930s who, in an attempt to play down Carroll’s relationship with young women, reduced the age of his young friends to such a degree that their – and his – innocence would supposedly be assured. They did not expect, it seems, that, to modern biographers, this merely served to further enflame the rumours surrounding Carroll.

To help their case, the producers ignored specific contextual information. There was no mention that Carroll became friendly with the Liddells through their son, Henry, rather than the three girls, or that in 1857, six years before the supposed break with the Liddells that anti-Carrollians take to be a sign of his inappropriate behaviour, Carroll recorded in his diary that his friendship with the children had resulted in rumours of a supposed attachment to their governess, Miss Prickett. He is mortified and records in his diary that he has resolved not to see the children again.

There was no mention either of his donations to charities that rescued and aided children who had been sexually exploited. Although this new research has only been recently revealed by Jenny Woolf’s 2011 book, The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, it was well known to the programme’s consultant, Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

The sudden shoe-horning in of a photograph held in a French archive at the very end of the programme smacks a little of desperation, a desire to prove unequivocally that Carroll’s relationship with at least one of the Liddell girls was not wholly innocent. As the interviewed experts were not invited to comment on it, the programme ends with the uncomfortable feeling that no matter what we may want to believe, Carroll’s world was not the innocent childlike wonderland he would want us to imagine. However, the programme makers have again left out a key piece of information. Carroll stayed in contact with the Liddell girls for many years, even sending their mother a heartfelt inscription to the 1886 edition of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground which read: ‘To Her, whose children’s smiles fed the narrator’s fancy and were his rich reward: from the Author. Xmas.’ The crushing ‘break’ seems to have little to no lasting effect.

Popular culture is dangerously good at historical myth making. If recent research is to be believed, Carroll’s perceived paedophilia seems to have little scholarly evidence. Although this documentary raises important questions about Carroll and Victorian ideas of innocence, childhood and sexuality, it does so on scant evidence and fails to fully engage with the record of Carroll’s own diaries and the personal testimonies of those around him.

Fern Riddell is a contributing editor at History Today.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Documentaries Every Entrepreneur Should Watch on Netflix Now

Burt's Buzz poster.
Everyday Pictures Burt's Buzz poster.

As the new year sets in, bookmark these entrepreneurial, inspiring films now. Make it a truly motivating year

Inc. logo

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

After Thanksgiving dinner, as the food-coma sets in and you suddenly realize the need to capture your extended family’s attention—or, let’s face it, you need a little “me time”—here are five films you should stream on Netflix.

1) Burt’s Buzz:

This film chronicles the humble beginnings of Burt’s Bees‘ namesake and co-founder Burt Shavitz and his Machiavellian struggle with co-founder Roxanne Quimby.

2) Inequality for All:

Former secretary of labor Robert Reich, with a little help from entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, explains the increasing problem of income inequality in America and its implications for our economy.

3) Happy:

Scientists, researchers, and thought leaders explain the latest information surrounding happiness (and reveal why your vast salary isn’t making you much happier).

4) Somm:

For all the winos out there, Somm follows the lives of a few folks compromising time, relationships, and other goals to study for and hopefully pass the Master Sommelier Exam.

5) 20 Feet From Stardom:

With interviews from music’s biggest stars, 20 Feet From Stardom unpacks the lives of backup singers and their immense contribution to the hits we all know and love.

TIME Television

Transgender Documentary Series Coming to ABC Family

Ryan Seacrest on Dec. 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
Steve Granitz—Getty Images/WireImage Ryan Seacrest on Dec. 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

The series, produced by Ryan Seacrest's company, is set to take a look at how a family reacts to a father's transition

ABC Family has ordered a documentary show called My Transparent Life straight to series from Ryan Seacrest Productions, which will focus on a teenage boy as he deals with major changes to his home life.

My Transparent Life will follow Ben, a teenager who learns both that his parents are going to divorce and that his father, Charlie, is transitioning into Carly.

The series is set to take a look at how the entire family handles both the divorce and the transition. My Transparent Life will attempt to look at both generations of this family and how they learn to support each other during a period of intense change in their lives.

“While Ben’s family situation is unusual, the themes and coming-of-age issues are universal, and we think our viewers will find a real connection to them,” Tom Ascheim, President of ABC Family, said in a statement about the show.

No date has been set for the series, but the show certainly continues television’s recent spate of shows offering a look at transgender characters. EW‘s Melissa Maerz spoke to the trend, pointing out shows like Orange Is the New Black and EW‘s best show of 2014, Transparent, as opening minds across the country to the experiences of trans characters.

This article originally appeared on Entertainment Weekly.

TIME

Man Posthumously Reveals He Was Spiderman in Obituary He Helped Write

Aaron Purmort showed great humor even in his dying days

Aaron Purmort was an art director, “pop culture encyclopedia,” husband and father. But his obituary, published in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after his death from a brain tumor on Nov. 25, revealed him to be something else: Spiderman. The obituary, which he co-wrote with his wife, said that he died “after complications from a radioactive spider bite that led to years of crime-fighting and a years long battle with a nefarious criminal named Cancer.”

The remembrance goes on to recall (facetiously) his first wife Gwen Stefani and to assure readers that his son “will grow up to avenge his father’s untimely death.” Purmort’s wife Nora wrote on her blog, “My Husband’s Tumor,” that she had “never laughed and cried more in one sitting” than when the two of them wrote the obituary together. She has been documenting their story — “not a cancer story” but a love story “with some cancer” — on the blog since 2012, the year after they got married and Aaron was first diagnosed, and the year before they had their son.

The Purmorts’ story will soon become a documentary, the title of which, a&n, serves as a reminder that it is a love story at its core. As Nora wrote in the blog post in which she announced Aaron’s death: “I know what Aaron always knew: it might not be true right this second, but it’s going to be okay.”

TIME Music

Kurt Cobain Documentary Heading to HBO in 2015

Photo of Kurt COBAIN and NIRVANA
Raffaella Cavalieri—Redferns/Getty Images Kurt Cobain performs live onstage in Modena, Italy on Feb. 21, 1994.

Montage of Heck will be the first authorized documentary about the Nirvana frontman's life

Kurt Cobain has been the subject of many films, including a fictionalized version of himself in Gus Van Sant’s Last Days and a controversial 1988 documentary called Kurt & Courtney. Now, HBO is releasing the first fully-authorized documentary of the Nirvana frontman, executive-produced by his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.

At the helm is Brett Morgen, who worked on HBO’s Rolling Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, as well as The Kid Stays in the Picture, which told the story of the rise and fall of notorious Hollywood producer Roger Evans. According to a press release from HBO, Morgen started working on the project years ago with the family’s blessing, combing through Cobain’s archives, watching never-before-seen home movies, listening to recordings, and digging through Cobain’s artwork, photography, journals, and songbooks..

“I started work on this project eight years ago,” says Morgen in the press release. “Like most people, when I started, I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth. However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4000 pages of writings that together help paint an intimate portrait of an artist who rarely revealed himself to the media.”

The feature-length film, Montage of Heck, is slated for release in 2015.

TIME On Our Radar

A Fresh Look at Africa through Nigeria’s Largest Photo Festival

When LagosPhoto Director Azu Nwagbogu, and other members of the African Artists’ Foundation, were setting up Nigeria’s first ever photo festival, they had a pretty broad goal in mind: to provide a platform for photographers to tell new stories about Africa. But perhaps an even more important part of their mission was to empower artists to remedy what Nwagbogu has termed “Afro-pessimism,” the tendency for visual representations of the continent to be negative, particularly in the western media.

“If I think about what documentary photography, in the traditional sense, has for done Africa, it hasn’t really empowered the continent,” Nwagbogu tells TIME. “Africa [is often seen] as a hopeless continent where it’s almost like nothing can be done.”

But he knew a different kind of work was out there, he says. And on his travels, he would often come across refreshing visual stories documenting various African countries, but ones that had never been shown in Africa. “I realized there was an abundance of talent,” he says. And so the festival was born.

Now in its fifth year, the show sees photographers present work under the theme Staging Reality: Documenting Fiction. Fiction here not necessarily indicating invention, Nwagbogu stresses, but rather how storytelling can represent reality. Indeed, fiction in Nigeria, and in many cultures, can often be used as a conveyor of truth, he says.

“Most of what we know about Parisian life in the 19th Century is through fiction — people like Balzac, people like Flaubert,” Nwagbogu continues.

On show are Cristina de Middel’s arresting This is What Hatred Did series, which is a modern retelling of an old Nigerian story, Namsa Leuba’s powerful Cocktail, which focuses on the representation of the female body in Africa and Seun Akisanmi’s Nigerian Punishments in which the artist explores the various forms of punishment he received as a child.

But Nwagbogu is keen to stress that this year’s theme is not about jettisoning photojournalism — last year, curators showed Jerome Delay’s work from Mali, for example — but it’s more about broadening the festival’s scope to include different kinds of photography, and indeed, narratives.

“If we engage and empower local and international photographers to embrace a newer narrative I think, maybe, we have a better solution,” he says. “We don’t need to define ourselves as who we are not anymore, we can now define ourselves as who we want to be.”


LagosPhoto runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 26, 2014 in Lagos.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.


TIME Music

Martin Scorsese Signs On as Executive Producer of Grateful Dead Documentary

"The 50 Year Argument" Photo Call - 52nd New York Film Festival
Ilya S. Savenok—Getty Images Director Martin Scorsese attends the "The 50 Year Argument" premiere during the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 28, 2014 in New York City.

The documentary is set to be released next year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of band's founding

Hollywood director Martin Scorsese will be the executive producer of an upcoming documentary on legendary ’60s rock group the Grateful Dead.

The documentary, which will use a mix of vintage interviews, live concerts and new interviews with surviving members, is slated to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the iconic band’s founding, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Amir Bar-Lev, known for 2010 film The Tillman Story, will direct the yet-to-be-titled Grateful Dead flick.

The band, made up of Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh and the late Jerry Garcia, said in a statement that they are honored to have Scorsese on board. “From The Last Waltz to George Harrison: Living in the Material World, from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones, he has made some of the greatest music documentaries ever with some of our favorite artists,” they said.

Scorsese also released a statement, saying he was happy that the film was being made and honored at being a part of it. “The Grateful Dead were more than just a band,” he said. “They were their own planet, populated by millions of devoted fans.”

[THR]

TIME History

FDR’s Polio: The Steel in His Soul

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

Disease can break a lot of people. As a new film by Ken Burns and an exclusive video clip show, it helped make Franklin Roosevelt

No one will ever know the name of the boy scout who changed the world. Odds are even he never knew he had so great an impact on history. It’s a certainty that he was carrying the poliovirus—but he may not have known that either since only one in every 200 infected people ever comes down with the paralytic disease. And it’s a certainty too that he had it in late July of 1921 when he and a raucous gathering of other scouts had gathered on Bear Mountain in New York for a summer jamboree. So important was the event in the scouting world that it even attracted a visit by the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and 1920 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Franklin Roosevelt.

This much is painfully certain too: somehow, the virus that inhabited the boy found its way to the man, settling first in his mucus membranes, and later in his gut and lymph system, where it multiplied explosively, finally migrating to the anterior horn cells of his spinal cord. On the evening of August 10, a feverish Roosevelt climbed into bed in his summer cottage on Campobello Island in Canada’s Bay of Fundy. It was the last time he would ever stand unassisted again.

Roosevelt’s polio, which struck him down just as his political star was rising, was supposed to be the end of him. The fact that it wasn’t is a self-evident matter of history. Just why it wasn’t has been the subject of unending study by historians and other academics for generations. This year, Roosevelt and his polio are getting a fresh look—for a few reasons.

October 28 will be the 100th birthday of Jonas Salk, whose work developing the first polio vaccine was backed by the March of Dimes, which was then known as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and which itself grew out of the annual President’s Birthday Balls, nationwide events to raise funds for polio research, the first of which was held on FDR’s 52nd birthday, on January 30, 1934, early in his presidency. That initial birthday ball raised a then-unimaginable $1 million in a single evening, a sum so staggering Roosevelt took to the radio that night to thank the nation.

“As the representative of hundreds of thousands of crippled children,” he said, “I accept this tribute. I thank you and bid you goodnight on what to me is the happiest birthday I have ever known.”

This year too marks one more step in what is the hoped-for end game for the poliovirus, as field-workers from the World Health Organization, Rotary International, UNICEF and others work to vaccinate the disease into extinction, focusing their efforts particularly on Pakistan, one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

Then too there is the much-anticipated, 14-hr. Ken Burns film, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, which begins airing on Sept. 14. It is by no means the first Roosevelt documentary, but it is the first to gather together all three legendary Roosevelts—Franklin, Theodore and Eleanor—and explore them as historical co-equals. It’s the segments about FDR and his polio that are perhaps the most moving, however—and certainly the most surprising, saying what they do about the genteel way a presidential disability was treated by the media and by other politicians in an era so very different from our own.

“We think we’re better today because we know so much more,” Burns told TIME in a recent conversation. “But FDR couldn’t have gotten out of the Iowa caucuses because of his infirmity. CNN and Fox would have been vying for shots of him sweating and looking uncomfortable in those braces.”

That’s not a hard tableau to imagine—the competing cameras and multiple angles, shown live and streamed wide. And what Americans would have seen would not have been pretty, because never mind how jolly Roosevelt tried to appear, his life involved far, far more pain and struggle than the public ever knew, as a special feature from the film, titled “Able-Bodied,” makes clear. That segment, which is not part of the broadcast and is included only on the film’s DVD and Blu-Ray versions, which are being released almost contemporaneously with the film, was made available exclusively to TIME (top).

Concealing—or at least minimizing—the president’s paralysis was nothing short of subterfuge, the kind of popular manipulation that wouldn’t be countenanced today. But it’s worth considering what would have been lost by exposing the masquerade that allowed FDR to achieve and hold onto power. Roosevelt, as the Burns film makes clear, was a man whose ambition and native brilliance far exceeded his focus and patience. It was a restlessness that afflicted cousin Teddy too, causing him to make sometimes impulsive decisions, like pledging in 1904 that he wouldn’t run again in 1908—an act he regretted for the rest of his life and tried to undo with his failed third-party presidential bid in 1912.

“Who knows what would have happened if Teddy had had the great crises Franklin had—the Depression and World War II?” Burns says. “I do know he was unstable and always had to be in motion. It fell to FDR, who could not move, to figure out a way to outrun his demons.”

George Will, in an artful turn in the “Able-Bodied” clip, observes that when the steel went onto Roosevelt’s legs it also went into his soul. That may have been true in FDR’s case, but it’s true too that suffering is not ennobling for everyone. Some people are broken by it; some are embittered by it. As polio nears the end of its long and terrible run, the things FDR achieved despite—even partly because of—his affliction remain nothing short of remarkable.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrities

George Takei: ‘Being Optimistic Is Ensuring Your Success’

The star is the subject of a new documentary

There’s a Japanese word that shows up repeatedly in the new documentary, To Be Takei (Aug. 22) about the life of George Takei: “gaman.”

“Gaman translates into English as ‘to endure with dignity, or fortitude,’” the Star Trek actor tells TIME. Gaman was, he says, a source of strength for Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps during World War II — and he would know. Takei spent his childhood, up until almost his 9th birthday, in such a place. Even after the internment ended, the young Takei found himself in a hostile world, where housing and employment for Japanese-Americans were scarce, and his family, penniless after the war, lived on Skid Row in Los Angeles.

And gaman continued to prove necessary as Takei got older. When he became an actor, his first roles were ones he regretted even before filming them, stereotypical Asian caricatures he says his agent convinced him were worth it for the visibility. And, even after his acting career was established, he faced different struggles as a gay man — first with concealing his sexuality, later with getting the right to marry.

But he endured. As he tells TIME, he did so with a smile.

“I think being optimistic is ensuring your success. If you start out saying ‘I’ve got this problem or I’m angry at that,’ you will not succeed,” he says. “My father said, ‘Be confident of who you are, but also work hard to be the best that you can be.’”

It’s clear by now that his optimism is well-founded. The science-fiction devices he used on Star Trek have become reality (except, he notes, for the transporter), he’s married, he’s enjoying a major wave of popularity — and, of course, he’s the star of a movie about himself.

“The future,” he says, “is today.”

Read more about George Takei in this week’s TIME.

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