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Matinee: 'The Photo Man' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

9 May 2015

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 eighty-fourth in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Photo Man.

In this seven-minute clip produced and directed by Ben Kitnick with cinematography and editing by Saxon Richardson, you'll make the acquaintance of Mark Kologi.

By his own description, he's the Photo Man. The guy, that is, at the Melrose Trading Post flea market with boxes and bins of unindentified photographs. He's spent "hours and hours looking through piles of photos and observing the lives of these people flashing before your eyes."

We know what you're thinking.

You're remembering that perfect rectangle, bright if not white, on the sidewalk that you picked up and turned over only to find the face of someone who was no more than a stranger to you.

And yet, in that moment, some bond was formed. You still have the photo. You, in fact, cherish it.

You'd be the first to admit that you have no idea who it is or why it matters. And yet you have lived with this face for years and it matters. That face is real. A real person. Who was at one time photographed. Captured, as we say.

Kologi collects millions of photographs like that -- and sells them. There's a market for that sort of thing in Los Angeles.

He works out of a storage garage propped up with a 2x4. Looking out at the world through the door opening, he imagines it a movie screen. He curates (his word) his prints "in a distillation that works really good for the creative community here" there before he sells them.

That's the reward for him. Feeding the creativity of the artists, some downcast, who buy his prints, see the light bulb go off and get back to work.

Prints. Some faded. Some torn. Some creased. The perfection of their rectangles often compromised.

And yet that portrait on one side is enough. A family of three. The beach. A youth. A pair at their wedding. A lakeside scene. An old woman with her granddaughter.

We are all standing around these buckets of photos, he observes, having a private experience but a communal one, too, an emotional one. "That's why people come back time and time again," he thinks.

We can make a connection, even with a stranger. We can safeguard their image as if it were their soul.

We know what you're thinking. And you're not crazy. Not at all.

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