Awards Season Picks: ‘Sophie And The Baron’

Black and white still image of Alexandria Jackson sat on the floor in her studio drawing with black ink onto a piece of paper. A big piece of art work is displayed behind her and she is looking up towards someone in front of her

Director Alexandria Jackson tells the feel-good story of the year

Wednesday 26 January 2022   By Abigail Hirsch   Video by Adrian Roup and Paulo Berberan 

Artist Sophie Kipner worked at the right pub in London; a bar where one day, Baron Wolman, the photographer behind the devise of Rolling Stone magazine, would walk in and strike up a conversation. From there, one brave request from a young artist at the beginning of her career and an immediate yes from an established creative at the end of his, led to a whirlwind of collaboration and a new life for the most iconic 1960s music photographs in American history. 
Director and Malibu member, Alexandria Jackson, joins us at Little Beach House to discuss her film. Shortlisted for the 94th Oscars® for Documentary Short Subject, Jackson cites her cinematography as a natural collaboration. ‘It’s very organic in the moment, and that’s how Sophie does her work,’ she says. ‘And that’s in turn how I was shooting the two of them. They both allowed me to capture them.’
Read on to hear more from behind the documentary and look out for Sophie And The Baron on Disney+.

How did the story of Sophie And The Baron come to be? 
‘Sophie met Baron fortuitously while bartending in London. Only later did she make the connection that he was the notorious Rolling Stone photographer behind the prolific shots of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Miles Davis, and all of these musicians in the Woodstock era. By chance, Sophie had been collecting his images for years. When she realised that Baron shot those photographs, she was brave enough to ask him if they could collaborate. And he said yes.’

Tell us about the moment you wanted to make this story into a documentary. 
‘Knowing I had a background in photography, Sophie was eager to introduce me to Baron. Upon meeting him, I quickly saw a story in their beautiful friendship and collaboration. Being in the presence of their easy, warm relationship, I had to capture it. 

‘I naturally started shooting them. It was organic. We weren’t setting up lights and being overly concerned with composition. It was layers of just going with the flow.’

‘You don’t often see artists validating other artists, and the confidence that can bring upon a younger artist’

As you were filming, what element of Sophie and Baron’s relationship surprised you? 
‘Watching Sophie work is like watching David Blaine do his thing. She’s blind contouring – an old art school technique that allows you to get out of your head and free yourself up, artistically. People respond to Sophie’s art because she captures something elusive and hard to explain; there’s a lot of energy in it. Their art forms are very different, but there are a lot of similarities. Sophie doesn’t look when she does her initial drawings, much like a photojournalist doesn’t necessarily consciously compose a shot.’

Baron’s work is so clearly the starting point for Sophie’s art. What did her recreation of these photographs in turn offer him? 
‘For Baron, Sophie breathed new life into his work. Just prior to the pandemic, he learnt that he had ALS and didn’t have much time left. Baron was actively involved in the doc edits; we communicated constantly. This film gave him something to focus on other than the world collapsing around him. Baron considers the film the bookend to his life as a photographer and friend, which is a huge honour.’ 

Baron passes his ethos of assumed success on to Sophie. What do you hope viewers will take away from this learning? 
‘You don’t often see artists validating other artists, and the confidence that can bring upon a younger artist. Baron lived by the philosophy of saying yes. In a time where we’re so polarised and divided, it’s important to focus on how friendships and collaborations can happen – and what can come from artists of different mediums trusting each other.’ 

Still image of Alexandria Jackson painting one of her pieces of art. She is using a black pen to outline a colourful abstract person that she has painted
Still image of Alexandria Jackson showing someone her art. She is pointing to a black and white piece that is displayed on the wall to a man beside her
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