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Review: UNVEILED: JOYCE TENNESON AND THE HEROINE'S JOURNEY at Sedona International Film Festival

Review: UNVEILED: JOYCE TENNESON AND THE HEROINE'S JOURNEY at Sedona International Film Festival

The 57-minute documentary will screen at the Sedona International Film Festival on Wednesday, February 22nd at 4:10 p.m. (Harkins Sedona 6 – Theatre 2) and Friday, February 24th at 10:10 a.m. (Mary D. Fisher Theatre).

The Sedona International Film Festival returns for its 29th Season from February 18th to the 26th.

One of the films in a sparkling array of features, documentaries, and shorts is an incisive and revealing profile of Joyce Tenneson, regarded as one of the most influential women photographers in the history of photography. Such consideration is all the more impressive when one considers the names with whom hers is expressed in the same laudatory breath: Ruth Bernhard, Imogen Cunningham, Martha Casanave, Olivia Parker.

Incisive ~ in that the film probes the creative intentions and impulses that combined to frame women in powerfully distinctive emotional and spiritual lights.

Revealing ~ in that the film speaks not only to the internal life and visionary spirit of the artist but also to her external life and roles as a wife and mother.

Framed as an accounting of Tenneson's life's journey towards personal fulfillment and self-actualization ~ what she describes as a necessary and essential "probing into her inner self" ~ UNVEILED is also a magical and inspiring exposure of her extensive and ever-evolving portfolio of work.

Tenneson stands front and center before the documentarian's camera and speaks directly ~ with candor and authenticity ~ about her journey. Her voluminous output over a 45-year career (her first work, In-Sights: Self-portraits by Women, published in 1978) reflects an evolution in artistic vision that is distinctive among the male-dominated field of photography, emphasizing attributes of women that are deep and spiritual. Her mission, from the beginning, was to expose and illuminate the inherent power of women, to probe and reveal their psyches, and to do so with techniques that accentuated her purpose.

In this regard, the film makers do an effective job in capturing Tenneson's signature style ~ sharing one after another a series of the "luminous and unique 20x24 inch Polaroid, Ilfochrome and vintage gelatin silver prints" that Photography West described as creating "a poignant mystical sensibility" and revealing "the inner person hovering behind the façade." The perspectives of luminaries in the world of women's photography (Elinor Carrucci, Kathy Ryan, Gillian Laug, and Vicki Goldberg) further attest to the significance of Tenneson's contributions.

The power of her work in elevating the portrayal of women is formidable and groundbreaking. She collaborates with her subjects to elicit their inner selves just as her work is a vehicle to expressing hers.

Among the many episodes that she shares about her artistic journey ~ and which brings a delightful personalized aspect to the film ~ is that which, in many ways launched her career and manifests her devotion to the art. On a lark and with a hope of publishing an anthology, she tells us, that, in January 1977, she solicited every college art department in the United States for black-and-white self-portraits by female photographers. Glimmering in recollection, she reports that, within six months, she had received 4,000 images from 800 women. The result was the immensely successful In/Sights, a collection of 125 of those submissions.

As much as the film celebrates Tenneson's work and accomplishments, it adds a dimension to the artist's life that is laden with the pain that derives from Tenneson's personal choices to pursue her muse and the implications of those choices on her son, Alex. The focus is on what is referred to by Alex and his daughter as "the situation" ~ a long-held secret that, once unveiled, had repercussions for the family and still awaits closure.

No spoilers here ~ only an explanation that the juxtaposition of Alex's narrative as a son with the musings of his mother bring a human texture to the film that is emotionally powerful and casts a bit of a shadow on Tenneson's halo. It speaks to the stresses that may weigh on an artist as she seeks to follow her vision while fulfilling her commitments to family. It explores the profound implications for her family of this noble woman's decision to keep secret a personal choice that, when revealed, has potent and painful consequences for those she loves.

Paul Brill's original music ~ complemented by the compositions of James Lavino, Lenny Williams, and Chris Biondo ~ adds a comforting harmony to the film and accentuates the spirit and flow of the narrative.

The film is an absorbing portrait of Tenneson, her artistry, and her humanity. It derives from a collaboration that, among others, involves Randy Gebhardt (Executive Producer), Rebecca Dreyfus (Co-Producer), David Wright (Co-producer and Director of Photography), and Mauricio Rivera Hoffman (Editor).

The 57-minute documentary will screen on Wednesday, February 22nd at 4:10 p.m. (Harkins Sedona 6 - Theatre 2) and Friday, February 24th at 10:10 a.m. (Mary D. Fisher Theatre).

Photo credit to Golden Tree LLC

Sedona International Film Festival ~ Saturday, February 18th- Sunday, February 26th ~

2023 Film Festival Schedule @

Office: 2030 W. State Route 89A, Suite B-2, Sedona, AZ ~ 928-282-1177

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