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Archive for the ‘Visual Research Dept.’ Category

During the planning, shooting and promoting of the Chinatown Ballers, I had, for obvious reasons, the imagery of football on my mind, and since I was gripped by a sense of nostalgia for a time before the internet I explored the internet for images from when I was a little boy (or “wee lad” in proper football nomenclature). My becoming a soccer fan coincided with the time when German Fussball was at it’s very peak. The teams from the early 70’s were filled to the rim with great players, who were in turn filled with the spirit of rock’n’roll, or something. In any case all these guys could be timemachined into nowadays Williamsburg and, while ordering a macchiato, make a barista feel squarish.

So let’s start with the great “Kaiser” Franz Beckenbauer, the innovative play-making defender and early expert on mustache irony.

Here he is showing New Yorkers how to simultaneously impress his mom, his grandma and his girlfriend while sporting a little powder-blue baggy. How did he do it? I wish I knew.

Great minds think alike…

…which leads us to Gerd Müller. Possibly the best German player of them all, definitely the best striker by far, which is why he gets to wear this outfit:

 

 

Here he scores the winning goal in the ’74 World Cup final against the Netherlands…

and that’s why he gets to smoke a big cigar with Paul Breitner….

…speaking of Breitner: Here was a man who was not afraid to engage in an Afro-deathmatch to the death with England’s Kevin Keagan…

…tell fratboys all over the world how to turn indigestion into a headache…

…show men what men shorts should look like on men (together with Uli Hoeness)…

…and yet be a sensitive art lover deep down inside…

…just like Guenter Netzer…

…a moody midfield genius…

…who knew his place at a pool…

…or on a very fast, sexy car…

…just like Sepp Maier…

…the backbone of the defense…

…who’d go after any ball…

…in any condition…

…and never lose his head.

Last but definitely not least there was Berti Vogts, one of my favorite players.

Though he was a bit undersized, his ferocious defending earned him the nickname “the terrier”.

And yet, he was man enough to read a book in a romantic setting…

…and keep his forwards (Jupp Heynckes in this case) happy, no matter how.

Let’s finish with Rolf Hayo’s terrific shot of Gerd Mueller pounding a ball through seven window panes, symbolizing a soccer mom’s dream and nightmare simultaneously.

A nice source for more good, clean images of German soccer is http://bundesligaclassic.tumblr.com/.

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While putzing around on the Internet (which seems to be my day job) and keeping a semi-interested eye on this year’s Tour de France, I came across some old images of Eddy Merckx. Like many of you will know, Eddy Merckx isn’t just the owner of the coolest name ever, he was also the most dominant bicyclist of his generation. So dominant was he that his nickname was “The Cannibal”.

He also had a way of looking larger than life in pictures. His suffering was of religious proportions…

…his crying on the bed put every teenager to shame…

…and when he got his white socks dirty he didn’t stop at light grey.

I also think that the old guard knew the limits of effective advertising…

…while this picture above makes me want to write with a Bic pen, drive a Peugeot on Michelin tires to a BP station and drink an ice-cold Salvarani (or whatever that is), this picture of the poor (modern day) Schleck brothers only gives me a headache.

There are 28 logos between them just above the belly buttons. Imagine the horror if they were triplets! I mean, is anybody buying a Skoda because it’s the seventh company from Andy Schleck’s left nipple? I don’t think so either.

In any case let’s finish the post with a great picture by Stephan Vanfleteren of the older Merckx and let’s all have a Molteni in his honor.

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The passing of Lucian Freud last week startled me out of my 6 week long blog nap. When I first saw Freud’s work at the Met’s retrospective in 1994 I was blown away, and I’ve stayed blown away ever since. His portraits and depictions of the human body are just unbelievably brilliant and inspiring. Here are some of his master pieces and some good words of wisdom for the common portraitist.

“I think of truthfulness as revealing and intrusive, rather than rhyming and soothing.”

“You are very conscious of the air going round people in different ways, to do with their particular vitality.”

“I’m really interested in people as animals. Part of liking to work from the naked is for that reason.”

“I work from the people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I live in and know.”

“Art has always to do with sensuality and selfishness.”

By the way, the first image of this post, the back view of Freud’s frequent model Leigh Bowery can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum and is well worth a visit.

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From the Visual Research Dept.: It is a near scientific fact that every German male would rather be a cowboy, so it’s easy to understand the strong fascination I felt growing up for one of the records my mom owned. It was the brilliant Ennio Morricone soundtrack for “Once Upon a Time in the West”, Sergio Leone’s Western masterpiece. The album cover was just incredibly striking, the music was strange and mesmerizing and I always wondered what the movie was like.

Unfortunately my mom never allowed me to watch it because she thought I was much too young for the stunning violence and brutality of that movie (a fair point as I found out later). I was probably around 12 when I finally snuck into a rerun at a local theatre and, man, did it not disappoint.  The violence was stunning (right, mom), the rhythm of the movie was  amazingly slow, the characters ambiguous, and everybody was dirty and sweaty in a good way.

While the film had great set ups with stunning vistas,

romance (kind of, and not a lot),

and good old-fashioned gun fights,

the thing that still impresses and influences me the most after many years and viewings are the beautiful portraits of the actors Charles Bronson,

Claudia Cardinale,

Jason Robards,

and Henry Fonda,

that Sergio Leone and his cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli created throughout the film.

There is also this pretty cool but mildly depressing video about how the films locations have changed in the 40+ years since it was shot.

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From the Visual Research Dept.: Frank Webster and I used to live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood  for a while, and I would recognize particular buildings, and typical vistas, mundane or trashy, that every New Yorker is familiar with, in his large paintings.   But where I would be slightly annoyed by an overgrown condo high rise going up in real life, baffled yet accustomed to sneakers hanging from overhead wires, and just plain pissed at plastic bags in trees,  I would be stunned by the melancholic beauty of Frank’s version of these things.

When it comes to making the ordinary interesting in art, many (and I mean MANY) have tried and many (MANY) have failed , but Frank Webster is the rare artist that can actually pull it off.


Frank Webster’s website

All images in this post © Frank Webster

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Stefan Falke is a Brooklyn based German photo-journalist who has worked and traveled extensively for a wide variety of magazines. On top of that he has made himself a name as a stills photographer on big German movie productions, a part of the business I know almost nothing about. So I’m very glad and grateful that Stefan agreed to do an interview with me for The Heavy Light. The movie we’ll be talking about is “Die Buddenbrooks”, an adaptation of the sprawling Thomas Mann novel, directed by Heinrich Breloer.

Dirk Anschütz: Tell me a bit about the Buddenbrooks project. How big was the production?

Stefan Falke: The movie was a big feature film released by Warner Brothers. For a German production it had a very large budget of around $20 million, of course that would be pretty small for the US. The filming was done in the summer of 2007 and the movie was released in late 2008. The director Heinrich Breloer is considered a Thomas Mann specialist, he won an Emmy for his TV series about Thomas Mann and his family “The Manns”.

DA: Did you read the book before the job?

SF: I tried but then I decided to wait for the script. (laughs)

Da: How did you get the job?

SF: I’ve worked with the director before, as well as with the production company Bavaria Film, as well as the distributor Warner Brothers. My initial way into the business was by complete coincidence. An old childhood friend of mine Hermine Huntgeburth became a movie director and asked me to shoot stills on one of her productions in 1996. It was just one of these things in life.

DA: For how long did you work on that movie and how long were your days?

SF: I worked for about 4 months, 5 or 6 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day. When I started shooting on films, that’s when I thought I really became a professional photographer, because you have to shoot everyday for months. It’s different from a lot of other freelance jobs.

DA: What equipment did you use?

SF: I had 2 Nikons D200. The lens I used the most was a real cheap plasticky Nikkor 18-135 mm f 3.5 to 5.6. I never thought I would use this lens, it just came with one of the cameras but I ended up really liking the range of the zoom. The other lenses I used were a Nikkor ED 28-70mm f 2.8, a 17-35mm f 2.8, an 80-200mm f 2.8, a 300mm f2.8, and an 85mm f1.4 for portrait shots. The lens factor of the camera was 1.5 and changed the focal lengths accordingly. I work out of a backpack on set but it’s easy to store gear and lenses that are not needed on a film set.

DA: Do you shoot with a blimp (a device that muffels the sound of a camera) ?

SF: No, which is rare in the business. There are two aspects of the filming I need to cover: The making- of and the film stills. For the making-of part or if there is a lot of noise in a scene, I don’t really have to cover up the noise my camera makes. For the quite scenes I work like this: During the filming I look for photographically interesting moments during the scene, and when the filming is done I jump in and ask the actors to redo the entire scene or a part of it, while all the lights are still set up. If it’s only a part I give them the sentence they said at the time and they can snap right in. Obviously to do that you have to really get along with the actors, the director and the DP (Director of Photography).

DA: How do you interact with the actors or the director or DP for that matter?

SF: I’m just being myself but as a stills photographer you have to be aware that you’re the only person on the set not involved nor needed in the making of the movie, and many people treat you accordingly in the beginning. I hear there are a lot of tears being shed on movie sets by still photographers (laughs).
Beside being a good photographer this job is really about weaseling your way into a large group of people that have very little time. You work around them, they don’t work around you. I treat a film shoot mostly like a reportage. Even though they pay me, I still want something from them. You also have to be totally decisive in the moment that is your moment, which can be nerve wrecking. You might have to wait around for your moment for 2 or 3 hours and then it’s only going to be there for a very brief time. In that moment you stop a huge machinery, 40, 50 people stop what they’re doing for you to take your pictures, so you have to be decisive about what you want.

DA: How much do you mimic the DP’s vision in your photographs?

SF: The photographs have to look like they’re images from the movie. I try to shoot alongside the camera as much as I can but at other times you have to come from a different angle.

In this picture below the camera crew set up in the speeding carriage to film the actress cradling her husband in despair. There was no room for me in the carriage and I could not ask for a restaging of this scene for my photo. So I asked the DP where exactly they would stop filming and he showed me the spot on the street. I set up a ladder right there to shoot down into the carriage while it was still moving and while the actress was still in the full emotion of the scene. Everything had to be very precise cause the second they stopped rolling film you could see me and my ladder in the frame of the movie camera.

DA: Do you ever work with an assistant?

SF: Almost never. If you shoot the poster, you’ll have an assistant but not on set.

DA: How do you deliver the images?

SF: It depends. For the Buddenbrooks I delivered RAW files and they did the post. But I also gave them my edit as finished jpgs as well. Sometimes they say they will do the post but they don’t always do.

DA: What ASA do you normally shoot on?

SF: I’m usually on 800 (inside scenes always 800, outside 100-400, 800 at night). And let me just say that I love digital. I love digital! It made things so much easier. You don’t have to carry a huge bag with daylight and tungsten film and filters and all that, and shooting with a high ASA is really not a problem anymore.

DA: How is the field changing with movies being shot on HD video? Do you think that a lot of the stills will be pulled straight from the video?

SF: Yeah, that will become a problem. Right now though a lot of the “moving” images are a bit blurry since a lot of them are shot at 1/50th of a second and you still need a photographer for the making-of pictures.

DA: Did you ever shoot video on a job?

SF: Yes, I tried to shoot a making-of video during a film once but had to stop. I could not shoot video and stills at the same time. I’m really an image maker. I want to fill the frame. I’m a stills maker.

DA: Are you a Movie buff?

SF: Pretty much. I normally watch half a movie every day. I usually fall asleep on the couch halfway through.

DA: Do you have a favorite movie?

SF: Well, there are a few, but maybe my favorite one is “The Professional” by Luc Besson with Jean Reno, Gary Oldman and a young Natalie Portman.

DA: Is there a director you would like to work for?

SF: I would like to work with Wim Wenders for the visuals of his films and I would love to work with Werner Herzog. I can really relate to his mixture of fantasy and documentary. Plus he works all the time. I really admire that.

DA: Any concluding tips for working on a movie set?

SF: Don’t think you’re important. I mean, of course you are important, but don’t let it hang out. You have to be really strong and might have to stand up to the director or DP to get your shots, but you have to fit into the team. The best praise I’ve gotten was when at the end of the movie the film people love the pictures but ask when I had taken them.
I see every production as a privilege. If I get the opportunity to get access to these great actors and directors, the job might be difficult, but it’s a privilege.

DA: Stefan, thanks a lot for the interview.

Stefan Falke’s website

all photos © Warner Bros. Pictures / Bavaria Film / Stefan Falke

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From the Visual Research Dept.:

Jack inn business

A few of the picture postcards that hang over my desk to aid me in my daily struggle with their inspirational and entertaining qualities, come from Martin Bronsema’s “Vorsicht Schussaffen” series.

Martin is an old pal of mine from Hamburg and his working method is quite interesting from a photography standpoint. He picks very small movie stills from German tv-guide magazines and crops them with masking tape, then looking through a loupe they become the basis for his paintings. This leads to an imagery of gestures that is distilled to an archetype.

The paintings are acrylic on American newspapers glued on canvas. Fragments of newsprint are shining through the paint and give the images their titles.

The name of the series is a nice bit of wordplay since the German word for guns is “Schusswaffen”, by dropping the “w” the meaning is changed to “Beware, Shooting Monkeys”.

Obviously Martin Bronsema is a peaceful man and his treatment of pop culture “Hero” images has a pretty subversive bend.

Mega Jobs

Contract Manufacturer

Evolution

High School

You Are Your Best Lover

Martin Bronsema’s website

All images in this post ©Martin Bronsema.

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