In the midst of The Photographer’s opening crowd shot, the titular lensman (Javan Hirst) and central character of the short, emerges, snapping away. Following which, we see him in a flat, looking at a selection of his photos he has stuck to the wall, and it’s not too long before we start to realise something less innocent is going on.
Only a minute into the film and he has said the line: “I go out looking, but in the end I don’t choose my subjects. They choose me.” With that he bumps into a woman (Sophia DiMartino), and then watches her intently as she walks away. That’s how his subjects ‘choose’ him.
All dialogue is incidental, with the photographer addressing the audience by use of voice over, in which he relays the deep and unconventional personal beliefs and ideology he lives by. What this does is rob the character of much mystery. If the filmmakers had approached the character cold and slowly allowed us to gain a better idea of who he is through simple observation, it would have been a more interesting approach to the character rather than have him essentially tell us who he is up front.
As he begins to pursue his new ‘subject’ out in the street, to her place of work, and while she meets with friends, he speaks of his strict ‘rules’ for his practice. One of them is to maintain a distance and have no contact with the people he is following, which he does here. All the photos he takes of his new subject are from a distance and without her knowing.
However, when he believes he has uncovered evidence that she may be in danger, he feels prepared to break this rule and warn her. It’s not adequately explained why he suddenly wants to help this woman – whether he’s developed feelings for her, if he wants the opportunity to be the hero, or if he doesn’t step in it will bring his pursuit to an end. Whatever the reason, he knows he has to step in.
The Photographer is not bad, there’s just not much in it that’s unique or original. It’s clearly inspired by One Hour Photo, also about someone isolated from society forming an attachment to a stranger from the sanctity of still photographs, while bearing a thematic resemblance to Christopher Nolan’s Following and taking style cues from Sherlock.
The finale of the film is effective, if a little obvious and not entirely credible, and the final line seems directed at the audience, framing the whole film as a warning about the dangers of invading people’s privacies. It’s a prescient point, given it is now far easier to do than ever before, and while this does not redeem the film, it’s an effective note to end on.
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