Selected Credits 1974-2017
When I was a kid we not only had newspapers, we had morning and afternoon newspapers. The Louisville Times was an afternoon paper that distinguished itself with its extensive use of photojournalism. Two-thirds of the second section front page was regularly given over to a photo essay covering a single subject or event. Written in black and white with Nikons and Leicas, these stories told with pictures awakened me to the narrative power of images. I also loved watching movies, and the WAVE-TV afternoon movie introduced me to the films of John Ford, David Lean, Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock. I soon became a fixture at the Crescent Art Theatre where I saw films directed by Roman Polanski, Francois Truffaut, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman.
I was drawn to visual storytelling, and fortunate to be at Western Kentucky University at the inception of the school’s renown photojournalism program. Seeing my first photographic image form in a developing tray was a magical and profound experience followed closely by a workshop taught by Bill Strode, a Pulitzer Prize photojournalist at the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times. Possessing little knowledge, but abundant bullshit, I secured employment as the darkroom supervisor at the WKU Audio Visual Department. With equipment, film and processing always available, I pursued photography using 35mm rangefinders, large format view cameras and everything in between.
I took a semester off in my fourth year to work as the still photographer and general crew person on a low budget movie filmed in Louisville. The Asylum of Satan was, to be kind, not a great film, but I have fond memories of that first filmmaking experience. Our Writer/Producer/Director/Editor and Composer, William Girdler, had ingratiated himself with many established Hollywood filmmakers, and our crew was star struck when we were visited by Charles G. Clark, a retired Hollywood cinematographer whose career had begun in 1915. We were mesmerized by his stories and intrigued by his prediction that some of us might have careers in motion pictures.
After graduation I traveled for four months, finally landing at the parental abode in Jacksonville, FL. Answering a newspaper want ad seeking, of all things, an Assistant Cameraman, I found my first and only staff position. The pay was dismal, but the job provided the opportunity to work with experienced photographers and cinematographers. For two years I learned the fundamentals of production as I worked as a camera assistant, photographer, lab technician, photo editor, grip, electrician, delivery person and floor sweeper. I was fortunate to work with cinematographers Charlie Bregg and Charlie Barth on commercials and industrial films and with photographer John Reitzammer on still shoots and multimedia presentations. I soon met the gorgeous Assistant Accountant, Barbara Whiteford. We enjoyed the excitement of a forbidden workplace romance until everyone knew about it. A few months after our wedding we set out for Chicago.
Arriving on January 1, 1976, I sought gainful employment in either still photography or motion pictures as well a thicker outer layer. Chicago had a thriving commercial scene in the mid-1970s, and my career as a freelance motion picture camera assistant began in earnest while my pursuit of still photography was relegated to personal work. Two years later I became a member of IATSE Local 666 and had the good fortune of working regularly with cinematographers Andy Costikyan, Jack Richards, Paul VomBrack and Bill Birch. In addition to the thousands of commercials I assisted on, I found work on documentaries, feature films, made for tv movies and episodic television. Much of the 1980s was spent working alongside the great Chicago camera operator James Blanford, who often described working in motion pictures as being like “finding money laying on the sidewalk.” Working with Jim it was. Notable projects as a camera assistant included the feature films Major League, Red Heat and The Package, the TV series Chicago Story and Crime Story as well as work on CBS Reports and 60 Minutes. My fifteen years as a Camera Assistant were challenging and fulfilling, but I wanted to shoot.
In 1989 I began my work as a cinematographer. It was gratifying to get such a positive response and the support of producers, directors and fellow cinematographers when I began looking for work as a Director of Photography on commercials. While the first couple of years were a bit sketchy, projects were soon plentiful with each job requiring a distinct pre-visualization and the execution of a visual plan. Notable projects included commercials for Nintendo, Kraft Foods, Sears, Alfa Insurance, Home Depot, McDonalds, 7-11, Southwest Airlines, Lean Cuisine, Cheerios, Tsingtao Beer, Farm Bureau Insurance and US Cellular. After several years of shooting only commercials, I began finding my way back to feature film and television productions as a Camera Operator and 2nd Unit Director of Photography. Projects as a 2nd Unit DP included the feature films The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Fred Claus, The Ice Harvest and The Grudge 2 as well as the TV shows Early Edition, Prison Break and Crisis.
Beginning in the late 1990s, along with every other filmmaker, I was caught up in the upheaval of motion pictures transitioning from the photochemical film process to digital technology. This technological revolution began with Sony and Panasonic high definition digital video cameras in the late 1990s, received a jolt from the aggressively marketed RED camera in 2005 and made the final transition to digital domination with the introduction of the Arri Alexa in 2010. Film negative has largely been replaced with files composed of ones and zeroes, but the things that matter remain unchanged. Cinematographers still seek the perspective and composition that best tells the story. We continue to observe, shape and capture the light that surrounds us as we tell stories with pictures.
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