“The Phantasmagorical Clarence John Laughlin, An American Original” is a documentary film about the New Orleans photographer who many consider to be the father of American surrealist photography.
In 1977, documentarian Gene Fredericks brought his equipment into the home of Clarence John Laughlin, surrealist photographer and eccentric genius. Despite his considerable artistic reputation, Laughlin described himself as “first and foremost a book collector”; thus, Fredericks’ plan was to explore some of the innumerable volumes crammed into the man’s small apartment. But the situation took a very different turn as the irascible artist inserted himself into the proceedings, offering up opinions on a variety of subjects, while freely insulting the people behind the camera. In addition to this footage, Fredericks provides interviews with a variety of experts on Laughlin’s bizarre personality and checkered career, as well as a chronicle of his own efforts to complete the documentary (including the story of a backer who offered him a considerable sum not to complete the film!). – Jack Hamm
Laughlin left a photographic archive of over 17,000 images now preserved by the Historic New Orleans Collection.
The film runs 88 minutes and there will be a Q&A with filmmaker Gene Fredericks immediately after.