Review: Uncropped


Suppose you were invited to visit the New York apartment of a famous photographer, just so you could sit down and have him and some of his friends reminisce about his six-decade career taking pictures of people – famous, infamous, and anonymous. What an experience that would be.

Well, you can. Just attend a showing of the new documentary “Uncropped.”

James Hamilton was a student at Pratt Institute in 1966, living with two other guys in a small apartment in Manhattan. He met photographer Alberto Rizzo, a fashion photographer, and got a job with him. Hamilton knew nothing about photography, but quickly learned and, when he bought his first camera he “… just fell in love with everything about photography.”

Hamilton is introduced to us as he wanders through Washington Square, camera in hand, shooting candid shots of anything that interests him. Then, back in his apartment/film processing lab, he and various writers, photographers, and editors he’s worked with spin anecdotes about the years they worked together and how Hamilton moved from one magazine to another during his long and continuing career.

Director D.W. Young (“The Booksellers”) has done a remarkable job of interweaving the conversation with literally thousands of photos Hamilton has taken over the decades. Conversation flows seamlessly as Hamilton describes his first big break: he was traveling cross country when he heard of the Texas International Pop Festival. Faking a press pass, he was able to take powerful pictures of the various performers. Upon returning to Manhattan, he sold the prints (never the negatives) to a new magazine, “Crawdaddy”. They immediately hired him as staff photographer and his career was on its way.

From Crawdaddy he moved on to some of the most famous and influential magazines and papers, including The Herald (newspaper), Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, The Village Voice, and The New York Observer. He also did extensive freelance work and film stills for Wes Anderson, George Romero, Francis Ford Coppola and other movie directors.

Recognition is due the film editor, who was also the director (and even produced) for assembling literally thousands of photos with the live video. One thing about doing a documentary on a photographer – you’ve got all the visual documentation you could want!

A master class on black and white photography and framing a shot? It’s here. A history of the newspaper business in the last decades of the 20th century, and how stories were put together (print and photos)? It’s here. The teenage prostitutes, the gang members, the window washers, the glamorous movers and shakers, Alfred Hitchcock photographed completely at ease and himself? All here.

If you have any interest in photography and an era that is fast fading as social mores shift, this film is for you. If you want a documentary about a man who created the A-bomb, look elsewhere. This is a documentary about a man who created beautiful, thoughtful, soulful images. And still does.


Director: D.W. Young
Producers: D.W. Young, Judith Mizrachy
Cinematographers: Marika Hacking, Franchesco Saviano
Editor: D.W. Young
Music: David Ullman

Runtime: One hour, 51 minutes
Availabile: Digitally starting May 7, 2024

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