Marilyn Creswell, MLIS
Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey is a one-hour segment of PBS’s American Masters series in partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES series. It is a documentary film about a photographer’s ability to capture architecture and sculpture, so translating an object from one medium to another is central to the story. It fits the tone of other PBS documentaries: both informational and relaxing. In the canon of artist documentaries, it is similar but more professionally focused than the 2021 Rita Moreno episode of American Masters. It may be most similar to the 1993 The South Bank Show episode on Annie Liebovitz: structured by significant projects, showcasing famous works, and supplemented by personal interviews.
This work would pique the interests of photographers, sculptors, architects, and anyone who studies those subjects. In addition to covering Guerrero’s photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, Louise Nevelson, and their works, the documentary includes Guerrero’s coverage of war and the “Mad Men” era of magazine imagery. Thus, some segments might appeal to students of different periods of American media history. Despite the preview’s mention of his upbringing in segregated Arizona, the documentary only briefly engages with his Mexican-American identity as it relates to his decision to enlist. Instead, it focuses more on the subjects of his works. The work was filmed just three years before Guerrero’s passing in 2012, so it functions as a retrospective of his main works.
Only a three-minute or six-minute preview is available through the PBS website for users without an account; the full film is also available via the Kanopy streaming service, to which many public and academic libraries subscribe. Purchase of the documentary is available through a digital download or on DVD through PBS or Amazon ($24.99). It can be rented or purchased as a digital download on the Apple TV store ($4.99-$9.99) or Amazon ($4.99-$7.99), as well as via Prime Video or Apple TV subscription streaming services. Apple and Amazon both allow users to view materials in browsers or through their apps. Despite the partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, the Kanopy instance of the film did not offer Spanish audio and caption options at the time of this review.
PBS produced a book, digital exhibit, and other educational resources to accompany the documentary, which will be helpful for viewers who wish to study individual photographs at length. Interviewees in the documentary remark on Guerrero’s ability to capture three-dimensional architecture in a two-dimensional form, and the documentary filmmakers highlight that ability. The movie includes many of Guerrero’s photographs, then shows where he took them, demonstrating how artfully he captured the feeling of a place. When covering more biographical elements of the story, the documentary includes interview footage with Guerrero; at other times, it uses historical film footage. These were effective tools to give audiences a better sense of who Guerrero was and what world he lived in.