As you began your career, what films/cinematographers did you study and why? When I attended SUNY Purchase, I’d go to the NY Film Festival and see every film I could. My second year at school I saw Wim Wenders The American Friend. That film changed my life. Robby Muller’s work made me want to shoot films. The images felt real. They felt like home.
What other artistic fields influence your work? In the early ‘70s, I lived with my brother Peter in NYC. He brought me to see Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Coppola’s The Godfather, Pakula’s Klute. The list goes on. Futurism was an artistic and social movement in the early 1900s. The paintings translated to the intrinsic nature of speed and movement. The inherent graphic nature of the imagery has always attracted me. I have also been inspired by Stieglitz and his quarterly publication,Camera Works. Also, from the early 1900s, this publication was dedicated to helping photography become recognized as Fine Art.
Give us an example of a movie, a sequence, that says “this is what making moves is all about”. One of my favorites is Godard’s Breathless. It’s a single shot when Belmondo approaches Jean Seberg while she’s selling the Herald Tribune newspaper on the streets of Paris. They walk away from camera and the camera follows them. As she peddles the paper, he asks her to go to Rome with him. They get to the end of the block and turn and walk to camera. The camera now backs up. She asks him if he wants to see his horoscope. He says he doesn’t believe in the future and asks her again to go to Rome with him. Nothing and everything happens in a single shot and moment. It’s genuine or it’s not.
What is one of your favorite locations that you’ve shot and why? I’ve shot around the world and seen some stunning locations. When it comes down to it, the streets of New York City are my favorite. Woody Allen sums it up in Manhattan at the end Brooklyn Bridge scene. “It’s really a great city, a knockout!”
If you hadn’t become a cinematographer, what would you have done? When I was in high school, I worked on fishing boats during the summers. Luckily, during the school year, I saw my future when I passed Gordon Willis on the streets in NYC shooting with Woody Allen or Coppola. Otherwise, I would have owned my own boat and become a Captain.
As you speak to people who have the passion for the industry you do, what kind of advice do you pass on? Someone once told me, that you need to walk through life and be “interesting” or be “interested”. Since then, that’s been my paradigm for life, really. When I am not doing interesting work, I stay focused and continue my work behind closed doors.