Les Blank

by

by Josh Baum:

Les Blank, a renowned documentary filmmaker of American traditional music, food, and culture, passed away last week at the age of 77. Blank’s films include The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, Sprout Wings and Fly with Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell, and the films Dry Wood and Hot Pepper on Creole and Cajun music in Louisiana.

From the New York Times:

“You could call him an ethnographer; you could call him an ethnomusicologist or an anthropologist,” Mr. Hackford said. “He was interested in certain cultures that Americans are unaware of. He shot what he wanted, captured it beautifully, and those subjects are now gone. The homogenization of American culture has obliterated it.”

A shy, quiet man, Mr. Blank achieved a kind of intimacy in his work — his subjects often seem almost impossibly at ease — that suggested the camera had been unobtrusive, or perhaps a welcome guest. Mr. Blank sometimes lived among the people he was filming for weeks at a time.

“I try not to make a big deal about the camera, to let it get between me and them,” Mr. Blank said in 1979. “I’ve seen a lot of cameramen go in and treat the subjects like so many guinea pigs. I think the people pick up on my very protective feelings toward them, and they aren’t self-conscious about what they do or say, and they try to show the inner light about themselves that I find so attractive.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/movies/les-blank-documentary-filmmaker-dies-at-77.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Excerpt from Sprout Wings and Fly:

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