The Making of Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits

In Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits, filmmaker Sean Nalaboff documents noted Hollywood photographer Matthew Rolston as he turns his eye from glamour portrait subjects to a series of fascinating vintage entertainment figures. In a never-before-seen photographic series and book, Rolston reveals the inherent humanity found in a rare collection of ventriloquist dummies from Fort Mitchell, Kentucky’s obscure Vent Haven Museum.

The film covers a span of over three years and travels from Los Angeles, California to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky; from New York City to Padova, Italy and finally to Miami Beach, Florida.

Along the way, Rolston is seen at work – literally from the first shoot day until the book makes its debut at Miami’s Fountainebleau Hotel during the weekend of Art Basel | Miami Beach.

In the film, Rolston interacts with the curator and staff of the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, the book’s executive editor and publisher, Suzanne Slesin of New York’s Pointed Leaf Press, the book’s designer Sam Shahid, and the craftsmen at famed Italian printers, Zanardi.

Talking Heads: Process and Presentation

Hollywood photographer Matthew Rolston commissioned a short film documenting the process of preparing for his first-ever exhibition of fine art photography – Talking Heads: The Vent Haven Portraits – a series of large format ‘portraits’ of an exceptional group of vintage ventriloquism dummies. Filmmaker Steve Dabal follows the process of printing, mounting and framing the works, and finally reveals them in installation.

The works were printed by Althea Edwards of Studio 5150, in Pasadena, California, and framed at Ota House by Jane Berman, in Venice, California – both important resources for the fine art community of Los Angeles.

Luxurious, archival, rag paper was Rolston’s choice for a series of vivid pigment prints that were then framed simply in white painted steel. Said Rolston, “Given the relative flamboyance of the subject matter, I decided on a minimalist approach.”

In the film, Rolston talks about the evolution of the work and his point of view on presentation. The film shows both his and his collaborators’ meticulous devotion to quality and detail.