It’s sad that my first post of the year is a reflection on the passing of two of the most important artists of their generation: the cinematographers Haskell Wexler who passed on December 27, 2015 and Vilmos Zsigmond who passed on New Year’s Day.
The annals of art history will not mention these men , because cinematography is not considered an art form, and even cinema is omitted from due consideration of 20th century art. However if you look at their work, it soon becomes obvious that their mastery of storytelling through light shade and tone is as powerful as anything mastered by Rubens or Vermeer.
I was at Camerimage (in Łódź, Poland) in 2008 when Vilmos Zsigmond was an honoured guest, attending the screening of the fine film No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008) by James Chressanthis. The film tells the story of Zsigmond and his friend Laszlo Kovacs, the two Hungarian film students who fled the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, ending up in the USA where they began their careers and changed film history. Their contribution of the look of cinema is immeasurable.
I had the honour to briefly meet Vilmos Zsigmond at the festival and I can say that he was absolutely lovely.
Film’s achievement is normally credited to the director, but it is a mistake to disregard the camera, since it is the camera alone which makes it a movie. How the camera reveals the image is key to what creates a powerful and memorable film moment.
‘bruise coloured sky’ Łódź, Poland digital photograph, ©Gillian McIver2008