For quite some time I have wanted to do a column on the photographers who inspire me. The ones who go off in creative directions that make the very good ones look like, well, just very good. The ones who make me think, "where did they get that idea?" Or, "how did they execute that shot?" The ones who challenge me to keep learning and practicing. The ones that I try to copy in order to figure out how they do what they do, whether it be styling or lighting or composition or focus. How they create a particular mood or feeling.
So here we are with the first column. An experiment this week for despite my love of still photography today I am talking about and showing you the work of a Danish cinematographer, Kasper Tuxen.
Recognize this photo from the television show Boss? No this post isn't about Boss. Well, it IS about the tv show Boss but not how you may think.
The show itself is riveting and sometimes over the top. Everyone in it leads a compromised life. And Mayor Tom Kane is probably one of the nastiest characters I have ever seen. Love it or hate it (there have been mixed reviews despite Grammer's Golden Globe win), it is beautiful to watch.
What grabbed me just as much as the story and the writing and the editing was the cinematography. How incredibly effective it was in supporting the mood of each episode. Tight close ups. So tight that the camera focused on one eye in emotional scenes. Just.one.eye. Macro shots to the extreme. Yet they worked.
And clever hand held camera work. Not so much to make you queasy. Not so much so that it felt like a gimmick or boring.
Shallow depth of field - in other words, sharp focus on the character with everything else out of focus. So shallow that in some scenes the face of the character is in focus and just a few inches deeper, the ears are out of focus.
And the camera angles - way down low, lower than you usually see. Also up high above the action.
So who did this? Who is behind this cinematography? It's Danish cinematographer Kasper Tuxen. If you haven't seen the show, here's a sampling of his work on Boss here
. As you watch, take note of the following:
1:40 shallow depth of field close up of Kane's wife
1:58 macro shots of the eyes of the two characters in conversation
2:12 shallow depth of field close up of the governor
2:35 Mayor Kane backlit and walking into focus until a shallow depth of field close up
2:56 another close up of Kane
Filmmaker Magazine included him in a summary of the 25 new faces of independent film. Scroll down here
to read about him. Having seen his work on Boss I wasn't surprised to read that "he’ll often start to think of still photography when first contemplating a scene". That's how this show looks. And Tuxen himself on his close-ups: "I’ll shoot a close-up with a 35mm lens so I’m as close to the actors as you would be in a conversation with a close friend".
He cites as his
inspiration cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle who did the lovely Danish movie Celebration
(1998). It was the first movie to get the Dogme 95 seal of approval - hand-held cameras, natural sound and lighting, location filming only (no sets), and no computer manipulation of images in post production. It also has my favourite Danish actress, Paprika Steen. Watch it. (You'll learn all about my love of Scandinavian film over the next few months in the run up to the Toronto International Film Festival in September).
Did you see the movie Beginners
last year with Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor? That's Tuxen's work as well.
So how has Kasper Tuxen inspired me? To perfect, as much as I can at this early stage of my learning, my close up photography of food and people. To experiment with an extreme depth of field where the subject is in focus and the rest of the photo out of focus. To capture the quiet moodiness of his filmwork in a still photograph. To try different ways to crop and compose a shot - to not only break the rules but forget all about them. And see the result.
Of course I'll share my experiments with you. And I think that I'll watch Celebration again.
Who inspires you? What types of photographs attract your attention?