Renowned photographer Elsa Dorfman didn’t pick up a camera until she was 28. A decade and a half later, she was one of only five people in the world to have access to Polaroid’s large-size 20”x24”, 240-pound camera. She then made her name taking vivid, large-scale portraits of subjects ranging from poet Allen Ginsberg to her own parents, often against white backgrounds. For this new documentary, Dorfman brings filmmaker and friend Errol Morris on a tour of her studio and archive, as she looks back at more than 50 years of pictures.

The B-Side takes its title from a musical reference to a record’s alternative side, the one with songs considered less essential. As Dorfman enthusiastically shows the audience late into this doc, many of the photographs in her archive are the ones her clients did not want to keep. She likes the pictures with mistakes or oddities, citing them as much more interesting. Accordingly, she may be a fan of Morris’s film about her. The B-Side is often more absorbed in Dorfman’s idiosyncrasies than her creative process. The result is a film that is sometimes fascinating, sometimes tedious, but often too scattershot to stand out amidst the rest of Morris’s work.

Its best asset is the titular subject, who speaks with contagious glee about her upbringing and initial decision to become a photographer. There are some fun nuggets throughout as the subject recounts the stories behind some of her favourite pictures. (As she explains of the upbeat poses in many of her pictures, Dorfman wants to make people feel better.) Still, it is curious that a woman so close with photography is camera-shy for much of the film. Morris loves to capture his subject hiding behind her photographs or avoiding eye contact with the camera. Archival clips of Dorfman speaking eloquently to crowds about her work show her with more composure.

As a documentary, The B-Side moves from topic to topic, decade to decade, without much flow. The film also fails to capture certain attributes that would seem essential in a film about a celebrated artist. These include her methods of working, and the intricacies of photographing with such a prestigious camera. With only a few investigations into Dorfman’s artistic temperament, The B-Side feels sluggish, even at a relatively slim 76 minutes. Meanwhile, Morris is content to stick with his subject in her stockroom, robbing the viewer of meaningful secondary sources. By the film’s end, one is not entirely clear as to why Dorfman’s portrait work merited a feature-length focus.