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The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover cover image

The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover 2005


Distributed by First Run/Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Paul Yule/Berwick Universal Pictures
Directed by Paul Yule
VHS, color, 79 min.

College - Adult
History, Photography

Date Entered: 09/06/2006

Reviewed by Sebastian Derry, The University of Montana

Deemed "a legitimate American genius and a nut" by no less than American photography guru John Szarkowski, O. Winston Link is the titular photographer in this 2005 documentary from British filmmaker Paul Yule. Born in 1914, Winston Link left behind a unique photographic legacy when he passed away in 2001, and is now seen to be the seminal American photographer of the past fifty years. Working in large format black & white through the 1950s and 1960s, he was obsessed with documenting and capturing the end of the steam railway in America, both in image and sound. His brilliantly lit, haunting images (nearly all shot outdoors at night to achieve his desired lighting effect and to illustrate people and trains in action) capture the power of the American Dream, while suggesting Link’s own loss of innocence, as Yule postulates.

Previously profiled by Yule in the 1990 documentary O. Winston Link: Trains That Passed In The Night, here Yule revisits his subject, but this time around there’s very little of Link the photographer. Instead Yule explores the intervening years of Link’s relationship with his wife cum business manager/promoter Conchita (The Wife) and their relationship with Ed Hayes (Her Lover). We get Link the paranoid schizophrenic and manic depressive (as described by his own executor), the downward spiral and collapse of his marriage, and the subsequent arrest, trial and conviction of Conchita for the theft of many of Link’s photographs. Along the way we meet Link’s son from a previous marriage, as well as various lawyers, prosecutors, agents and curators involved.

Shot mainly on video, interspersed with archival footage, and narrated by Yule (whose voice occasionally appears off-camera in several scenes) The Photographer, His Wife, Her Lover is a fascinating and disturbing tale of love lost and lives destroyed, that at times plays like an extended version of A&E’s American Justice (replete with jailhouse interviews of Conchita).

Viewers unfamiliar with Link will find much of interest here. Those wishing to explore the photographer’s work in more depth would do well to visit the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Virginia (either online or in person), the only museum in America devoted to the work of a single photographer.

Available in VHS only.

Recommended for public and academic libraries.