In my post about photographers who’ve made films, I neglected to mention Jerome Liebling. Liebling taught at the University of Minnesota for twenty years. During that time he made several award-winning documentaries with filmmaker Allen Downs (Pow Wow, The Tree Is Dead, and The Old Men). But his lasting impact in Minnesota seems to have been with photographers.
After leaving Minnesota to teach at Hampshire College, Liebling appears to have stopped making films. Nevertheless, he had an enormous influence on a generation of documentary filmmakers at Hampshire, most notably Ken Burns. This influence is discussed in yesterday’s New York Times:
“The essential DNA of all my films issues from still photography,” Mr. Burns said. But Mr. Liebling’s influence on his work, he said, reached much deeper, to a personal and ultimately philosophical level that has guided many of his choices of subject and approach.
In this brief little video you can tell that Liebling is an excellent teacher. I nearly went to Hampshire College (my parents thought it was too hippie-ish). I can only wonder how my work and life would have been different if I’d experienced Liebling’s influence first hand.