We all have had people who have inspired us along the path of our chosen professions. Much value is added when that mentor becomes a longtime friend as well. Director Andrew Davis’ (The Fugitive, Under Siege) documentary takes a look at the profound link between Tony Vocarro and Santi Visalli. Both are of Italian origin, but live in the United States. They work as photographers who found each other through the work, but bonded together as friends.
The two through the course of their careers have taken some of the most well-known photographs. As the older one, Tony Vocarro initially worked during World War II as a combat photographer under General Patton in the 83rd Infantry Division. His photographs brought to light some of the humanity within all that horror and darkness. Following in his footsteps was Santi Visalli who came to notice during 1957 when he and a couple of friends undertook an Italian led, Goodyear sponsored Jeep expedition across the globe, which Santi documented extensively.
When Santi came to the United States afterwards, Tony took him under his wing. The two, instead of the usual competition we expect from those in the same industry, from the get-go supported each other without hesitation. Both became well respected within the photography community for their portraits. Tony took iconic photos of Pablo Picasso, Sophia Loren and Enzo Ferrari while Santi shot Andy Warhol, Mohammad Ali, Federico Fellini, Louis Armstrong, and, of course, Sophia Loren.
All of this adds up to a constant and intimately created reminder of how important our relationships are. Friends, family and loves all can get us through the good and tough times in our lives. Here Andrew Davis allows the two (Tony is now 97 and Santi is 87) to just simply sit in front of his camera and tell their story. The story of their over 6 decade friendship. It results in a touching, intimate and poignant film which at times while watching you feel like you are in the same room as these two delightful men listening to them talk. And I could have listened for hours more!
You cannot help but fall under their spell as they talk, cook dinner, cut each other’s hair, and swap stories of photographing Sophia Loren. Incredibly charming. From their times photographing people like JFK or providing cover photos for The New York Times and Forbes. They have both lived quite a life, doing what they love and leaning on each other as needed. Their conversation is complimented by examples of each man’s work. Photo after photo passes in front of your eyes allowing you to understand the depth and breadth of their careers.
Bottom line, this is a love story. A platonic love between two men and the love they still feel for photography. A story of how a mentor and his protege became lifelong friends. Every moment is infused with this and the genuineness of their respect and admiration for each other.