Tag Archives: Cinema

Reflections in a Pashtun Cinema

Photographer Omar Mullick has spent the last decade passing through the countries of Central Asia on assignment. Here, he reflects on his photographs of a Pashtun cinema in Karachi, a space he found defied the preconceived images of the region.

These photographs were created, if I am brutally honest, from a loss of faith. Not in my religion or way of life, but from my understanding in how the eye of documentary photography portrays the Muslim world.

I didn’t buy it: the blurred melancholy and humorless conviction with which we documented native, usually Muslim peoples. It did not resonate—not even slightly, and even if I registered good intention in the work, it never mitigated my feeling that there were a thousand ways of looking at people in the West and only one way of looking at other people on the brunt of war. They were often confined to one visual language, or, to extend the metaphor, one set of visual phrases: suffering, victimhood, violence and trauma. And in the effort to prompt outrage and underline how bad war was, their subjects were often confined to the ‘other’. More specifically, people never surfaced in photographs—only symbols of war. What resulted was the worst absence possible in a photograph of another person: empathy.

The resulting photographs were shot, I realize now, as a response to that.

They were taken in Karachi at a Pashtun cinema before I was scheduled for an embed in Afghanistan. Working on a project called Basetrack and a documentary film about a Pashtun runaway boy, the photos were snapped on my days off. This place was my retreat, just as it was the retreat for the subjects in my photographs. My work, I hoped, was a portrait of people as they collectively exhaled. And in that I also hoped they kept, modestly enough, the company of photographers that emphasized sympathy over a desire to continue the string of visual metaphor: Kuwayama’s doves at Mazar E Sharif, Balazs Gardi’s tender Afghan father holding his son or Ladefoged’s The Albanians.

Pashtuns are known by legend and myth as warmongers, kohl-eyed and unforgiving, even unconquerable patriarchs to the last man—the blood and muscle of the Taliban. Here, displaced and withdrawn from their beloved mountains and heaped en masse in Karachi’s urban sprawl, they came to this movie theater—feared by outsiders—to see films and hear songs in their native tongue. And I—with my personal stories of bloodlines running all the way to Kandahar and Waziristan—schoolboyishly wanted to lose myself in their fold.

Men huddled and laughed in the aisles, smoking hash in advance of the film, people who saved their pennies for stale popcorn or samosas to be had in the intermission. Also men who, left alone, sat in the front aisles waiting in anticipation for a Pashto song to come on and then rushed the screen to dance against the projection to the song, cheered on by all. Runaway boys, who had made their way from Afghanistan or Waziristan to Karachi to pick trash by day, now chose the afternoon after Friday prayers to see a film. They preferred the sound of cinema to the buzzing drones that soundtracked their nightmares. Then there were the drug dealers, the boys looking to pick up johns by the bathrooms and the bulk of men who swore to kill any pedophiles they found taking advantage of children. But mostly it was of people at rest, disarmed. They were having fun.

These were men and young boys at ease enjoying themselves. In that they mirrored the loose pop flash photos I took of friends back home. I photographed the cinema barely looking through the viewfinder, the camera lofted above the fray and through ongoing laughs and phrases in Pashto, asking them what Waziristan looked like and who had been to Kandahar. And then I would shoot more, telling stories about my grandmother and her pride at being Pashtun and my mother’s own deep reservoirs of will and piety—markers they would surely recognize. In this recognition I found the most personal visual language I could muster.

Shoot them like you would your friends at home, I told myself: free of abstraction, their dignity intact. Shoot a portrait they might recognize of themselves, something they might love, something that may make them smile. At least once, let’s do that.

Shoot them as if your loss of faith in photography were redeemable, as if an image might actually be a chalice for humanity and you were all going to pass around the cup.

Shoot them as if your faith were already back.

Omar Mullick is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York City. He was an embedded photographer in the Basetrack project out of Afghanistan in 2011. His work on Muslims in America titled Can’t Take It With You received a solo show in 2009 at Gallery FCB in Chelsea, N.Y., and his recent film These Birds Walk was selected for 25 new faces of Independent Cinema in 2012.

From Photography to Film: Stanley Kubrick Enters the Ring

Stanley Kubricks professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior with a prolific track record of absences wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachievers budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each others extracurricular achievements Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: almost a caricature of what youd imagine a teenage cameraman would look like, as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homers Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walters physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateursa bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howells Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, as convenient to carry as the average size still camera. Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. linkwheel . The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patricks Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubricks subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killers Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of life caught unawares, and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubricks perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubricks production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubricks entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneuran under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly,Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

The Men Behind Lincoln: Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg by Marco Grob

Ever the director, Steven Spielberg was already thinking about the next shoot at his portrait sitting with Marco Grob for this week’s issue of TIME. Spielberg was curious about the photographer’s plans to photograph Daniel Day Lewis, who plays the 16th president in the director’s forthcoming Lincoln, later in the day. His schedule was free—so Spielberg offered to come back and help Grob with the shoot. “Spielberg is an icon, and to have him shoulder to shoulder with me as I shot was quite amazing,” Grob says. “He ended up directing Daniel’s gazes and poses, and talking to him during the shoot to create a really casual atmosphere.” Spielberg limited his creative input to Lewis, though, even at Grob’s insistence that he review shots, which ultimately suited the photographer’s nerves just fine. “To have a very famous voice in your ear, at your shoulder, as you shoot could be quite stressful, to put it mildly,” Grob says. “But this was obviously an incredibly fun and memorable experience.”

Marco Grob is a contract photographer for TIME. View more of his work for TIME here or on his website.

Cornel Lucas’ Celebrity Portraits: Studio Stars of the Silver Screen

Legendary British photographer Cornel Lucas has photographed some of the most powerful and captivating film stars of the 20th century. With a career spanning 70 years, one can safely assume Lucas has ‘seen it all’ when it comes to stars—his glamorous portraits immortalize the iconic actors of the golden age of film. But it wasn’t always a piece of cake. The photographer—who celebrates his 92nd birthday on Sept. 12—fondly recounted some the highlights of his career for LightBox, including his shoots with names like Hepburn, Peck and Bardot.

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Cornel Lucas with his Plate Camera, 1986

When movie star Marlene Dietrich arrived at Denham Studios for her portrait shoot with Lucas in 1948, she found a nervous photographer awaiting her arrival. Lucas had the idea to turn on a radio to break the ice for the star when she arrived—an idea quickly shot down by Dietrich’s publicist. “I was now more nervous than ever,” Lucas said. And it didn’t help his nerves that the publicity director announced to the photographer that her client was wearing a $40,000 coat.

But the Dietrich shoot went on without a hitch, save for the star’s creative direction. “She explained that she knew exactly where to sit, how to be lit and that her best pose was looking straight at the camera,” he said. “She was directing me!”

A day later, Dietrich arrived at the studio to examine Lucas’s contact sheets. Examining them with “an enormous magnifying glass”, she began marking the shots she liked most. Lucas then re-touched the images Dietrich chose and, the next day, showed her the final product.

“Pleased, she turned to me, shook my hand and said, ‘Join the club, Mr. Lucas!’,” he recalled. Perplexed, he asked the star’s publicist what she meant. His reply?

(c) Cornel Lucas

Diana Dors, 1955

“Mr. Lucas, it means you’re on the road to success.”

And indeed he was. The photographer’s career eventually took him to the grandest film sets and studios across Europe and the United States. The style and glamour of his work ensured that his portraits became the iconic image of the stars he photographed.

This makes it surprising that Lucas’ work has never been exhibited in New York until this month. A retrospective exhibition of his work is showing now at Fiorentini + Baker, the flagship store of the Italian shoemaker. Lucas’ work is also part of the permananet collections at the National Portrait Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum, the National Media Museum and London’s Photographers’ Gallery.

A retrospective exhibition of Cornel Lucas’s work will be held at the Fiorentini + Baker store and show room in New York from Sept. 5 to Oct. 28. View more of Lucas’ work here.

Stefano de Luigi Photographs the Cinema of Iran

With Iranian cinema in the news after A Separation took home the prize for best foreign film at this year’s Oscars—and after last week’s announcement that, in Iran, the planned celebration of that win had been cancelled by government authorities—LightBox takes an opportunity to revisit a 2007 project by Stefano de Luigi, in which he went behind the scenes to document the country’s filmmakers. These works, taken from the larger project Cinema Mundi, have until now never been published in North America.

At this year Oscars, there was no more poignant speech delivered than the one by Asghar Farhadi, Iranian director of the film A Separation, which won the prize for Best Foreign Language Film. “At this time many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy,” said Farhadi, the writer and director of the film. “They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture. A rich and ancient culture that has been under the heavy dust of politics.”

Stefano de Luigi—VII

Posters from national movie scenes are displayed Tehran’s Cinema Museum.

Amid the bluster of Washington neo-conservatives, hawks in Tel Aviv and messianic diehards in Tehran, Farhadi stood out, a voice of reason, a voice of art. His film is hardly propaganda: it deals with the travails of a middle class family in Tehran, which is torn apart by the desire of one member to escape what seems to be the shackling, limiting conditions of life in the Islamic Republic. Indeed, if anything belies the demagogic sheen of Iran’s image in the West, it is the irrepressible sophistication and class of Iranian cinema. Veteran filmmakers like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarastomi grace Cannes and are adored by cognoscenti the world over. In an era of 3D blockbusters and faddish directors, Iran’s cinema luminaries remain auteurs in an almost classical sense, the descendants of various New Waves that palpably reach back into the smoke-filled cafes of 1960s Rome and Paris.

The photographer Stefano de Luigi’s long-term project Cinema Mundi, which addresses changes to global cinema over the past decade, has taken him to filmmaking stories from around the world. His photographs from Iran are featured in the gallery above. The magic of Iranian cinema can transform stories of a missing goldfish or a wayward ostrich into profound allegories of faith, society and politics. Invariably, though, censors get in the way. Most recently, director Jafar Panahi was thrown into jail for his alleged collusion in the peaceful 2009 pro-democracy protests that rocked the powers that be in Tehran; his last film, Offside, related the struggles of a group of girls desperate to attend an Iranian national team soccer match—a spectacle from which they are barred under law. That awareness of a story suppressed, a “rich and ancient culture” under firm watch, suffuses much of Iranian film. It is up to the courage of its actors and artists to make sure the “dust of politics” that settles can be easily brushed off.

Stefano de Luigi is a Milan-based photographer represented by VII Photo Agency. See more of his work here.

Photographer #427: Nicol Vizioli

Nicol Vizioli, 1982, Italy, is a fine-art photographer based in London. She received a BA in Cinema at La Sapienze University in Rome and only recently an MA in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts. Her graduation project is called Shadows on Parade, a series of bizarre and mythical portraits. “They are declinations of my imagery, desires, waits, silent attempts of redemption. Sometimes they are dreams, more often they are prayers.”…“The casting was very instinctive but precise: twins, elderly, albinos or bald people.” She has been painting and drawing before she started photography and this strongly influences her work today. Her work has been exhibited in Italy and in the UK. The following images come from the series Shadows on Parade, AntiFashionManifesto and Hildegard Von Bingen.

Website: www.nicolvizioli.com

Photographer #254: Pieter Henket

Pieter Henket, 1979, The Netherlands, works and lives in New York. He is a self-taught portrait photographer who in recent years has photographed various celebrities. In 1999 he left for New York to study at the Film Academy but soon fell in love with the photographic medium. At a young age he managed to get an internship with the film director Joel Schumacher. The influence of cinema is easily noticed in his images. The Interrogation Project is a series in which he asked directors, actors and musicians how they would react to a police interrogation. He might be most known for the cover of Lady Gaga’s first album The Fame. The following images come from the Interrogation Project and his portfolios Images and Portraits.

Website: www.pieterhenket.com

euromaxx highlights

On this edition: – Looking Ahead A euromaxx reporter tests the hotel room of the future – Looking Smart Top designers turn champagne bottles into works of art – Looking Swish A Swiss company makes top of the range skis from granite – Star Tenor euromaxx caught up with star tenor Tony Henry during his recent visit to Berlin. – Book Trailers We take a look at the newest ways to promote books on the internet and in the cinema. How to make money . – Thomas Demand The Berlin artist specialises in three dimensional models of spaces or rooms made from coloured paper and cardboard. storage units . jewelry . Then he photographs them.