Photograph Of Jesus

Photograph Of Jesus


Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

The Hulton Archive branch of the Getty Images picture agency is one of modern media’s great treasure troves. More than 70 million still photographs and 30,000 hours of film footage document virtually every significant event or famous person captured since the invention of photography.

The agency recently set up a competition – the Short and Sweet Challenge – offering filmmakers the chance to create a short piece making use of the archive’s images. Laurie Hill’s was the winning entry, taking as its theme the bizarre requests received by the archive’s staff.

Copy picture

One of those requests gave the film its title. As the lugubrious curator who serves as narrator explains, they weren’t looking for a picture of an artwork or a statue – they wanted an actual photograph of the Son of Man himself.

As high-speed footage whizzes through the archive’s cavernous corridors, the narrator deadpans his way through a host of other ludicrous requests – footage of dodos and yetis, a picture of Jack The Ripper, Neil Armstrong on the moon with “the 12 other men who went there” and my personal favourite – Adolf Hitler at the 1948 London Olympics (as the Clash almost put it, they’d probably have sent a limo, anyway).

The unnamed staffer’s resigned, very English tone is worth the price of admission in itself, but Hill throws in some funky graphics (Charles Darwin eyes up a Fifties starlet, a yeti attempts to escape from a filing cabinet) and a bright, breezy soundtrack.

It’s all entertaining enough – but, perhaps inevitably given the context, it does have the feel of a promo film. There’s nothing about the changing ways in which photographers and filmmakers depicted these momentous events and personalities, or the process that turned Getty into the pre-eminent agency for this kind of thing.

A bit more of the broader picture and less of the (occasionally repetitive) photographic trickery would have made a real gem of a documentary short, rather than a fun but unchallenging whistle-stop tour of an admittedly fascinating institution.

Reviewed on: 29 May 2009
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Documentary focusing on the bizarre requests by the Getty Images picture archive.

Director: Laurie Hill

Starring: Matthew Butson, David Hayles

Year: 2008

Runtime: 7 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2009

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