At The Movies; Motion Picture Still Photographers
“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know.”—Groucho Marx, Animal Crackers
The movie set photographer is one of the unsung heroes of a motion picture camera team. It’s the still photographer’s job to capture on-set images that document the production that will later be used to promote the film. Lest you think it’s a glamorous job where you hang out and drink coffee with George Clooney, the reality is far from it. My friend Ralph Nelson (www.ralphnelson.com), himself a distinguished still photographer, once told me that “the two most exciting days on a film set are the first and the last.” Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for these photographers to create art and sometimes history. If you get a chance to watch the Lost Horizon DVD, there is a featurette illustrated with production stills from this 1937 classic that demonstrate what I mean about capturing history. You can read my take on some recent and not so recent films, including Lost Horizon, by visiting my movie blog “I Hate Popcorn” (www.ihatepopcorn.com) for reviews and observations.
Clay Enos was the still photographer for Watchmen, a visionary film that I believe will become the Blade Runner of this new millennium. Enos doesn’t consider himself just a movie set photographer as can be seen from the site’s sections for Portraits, Travel, Night, Mundane, Special, and Watchmen. His site contains links to his multiple blogs, Flickr photostream, Twitter page, and so much more that I’m astounded by his energy in creating so many online presences filled with great-looking images.
From what appears to be real Polaroid images of the Organic Coffee Vespa Tour that spins off into images on Flickr, Enos documents his 7000-mile scooter trip across the US. His Portraits are classical in concept and go beyond nice pictures of attractive people and focus on the inner person—their soul?—and while his style varies from gritty monochrome to soft color, he gets close to the people not just with his camera but, based on his subjects’ reactions, their true personas.
Toss out traditional impressions of travel photography when you peek into that portfolio. While much of it is centered on the people of these lands, others have a cooler, detached “and you may ask yourself—well…how did I get here?” Talking Heads vibe. The Night section features in-your-face photojournalistic images of the club scene; Mundane looks for and often finds beauty in unexpected places; and Special features dramatic portraits. Which brings me to a Watchmen portfolio that is all too brief and features exquisite black-and-white portraits of the film’s stars, extras, and supporting characters. Like the rest of Enos’s prodigious output, this is not to be missed.
Kelly Kruschel is a Toronto-based movie still photographer and if you’re wondering “Toronto?” then you may be unaware of how many films and TV shows are made up there in The Great White North. Her stylish website features images in several series, including Movie Stills, Series, and Personal, all of which bear her own unique sharply focused, colorful, yet warm style. OK, there’s some dyn-O-mite monochrome images to be found in her Personal section, including a great shot she calls “Downtown Toronto” that’s nothing like you would expect. There are also a few monochrome portraits that have a direct, minimalistic look, especially when compared to her more design-oriented color portraits, such as “Joseph Canata,” in this same collection.
My favorite new TV series, Fringe, is shot in Toronto, but Kruschel’s Series collection showcases other kinds of images from wonderfully loosey-goosey studio fashion shots for Ginger Martini Clothing to images of Casie Stewart, a Toronto personality and blogger that, like the fashion photographs, explode with color as well as the photographer’s personality. In Movie Stills you’ll find some wonderful images that fulfill all of the goals a still photographer must bring to the set but, like the very best of these shooters, she also imbues them with her own style, especially the way she works with color. In some of the obviously posed portraits, you’ll also notice her wonderful interaction with people that permeates the best of Kruschel’s work.