Tech Talk – Movie Stills Inspiration

I enjoyed a hugely inspirational (if a little bit too short) weekend.

The Guard A film by John Michael McDonagh
I watched a stunningly shot and brilliantly scripted The Guard, Starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheedle (Official Site). The whole way through this film I was envious of Jonathon Hession and Colm Hogan the stills photographers on The Guard. The stills photographers would have had an immense pleasure work on a relatively small ($6million) show that brought together gorgeous cinematography, locations and production design with so many comic moments.

La piel que habito: The Skin I live in a film by Pedro Almodóvar
While at the cinema I was struck by an awe inspiring display of stills from Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I live in (La piel que habito) starring Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon who has cultivated skin that is burn proof. Almodóvar describes the film as a horror story without screams or frights and the still images (presumably shot by Llúcia Faraig and José Haro) epitomise this description. Not only are they strikingly beautiful if confronting images, but I’m in love with the vintage film feel they create. To my eye the images are reminiscent of Bond publicity stills circa Sean Connery. Here’s a link to the UK Official Site sadly the images as published on the web site are not as striking as the prints adorning the walls of the Curzon Cinema in Soho, London. If you get a chance, I’d highly recommend stopping by the Curzon, the official website and or the gallery of stills over at

Glamour of the Gods Hollywood portraits exhibition presented by the National Portrait Gallery
Finally, the most inspiring part of my Sunday was my long awaited wander through the National Portrait Gallery‘s Glamour of the Gods Hollywood Portraits exhibition. Iconic images and movie stills of Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Marlene Dietrich and countless other golden era stars as photographed by the early masters of film publicity photography including the work of John Engstead, George Hurrell, Ken Danvers.

I was particularly enamoured with a John Miehle still from the 1936 classic Swing Time featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (its featured here Hood Museum of Art). The image is displayed as a large print and its a pleasure to see the tiniest bit of motion blur which combined with the joyful expression on Fred and Ginger makes for an extremely dynamic image. It’s a photograph that makes you smile and despite being in black and white you can almost taste the colours. I was also particularly taken by the black and white portraits and I plan on making it my project over the coming months to shoot my own interpretation of this style with some of the amazingly talented actors I’ve worked with. Below is a portrait I shot several years ago with a client that I think is in the style. I can’t wait to see hthe results I can achieve. Hollywood Portrait

So, what’s inspired you lately? Is there any photographer’s work that has inspired you in the craft shooting film stills?

1 comment

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  • Mischa van den BrandhofAugust 27, 2011 - 11:53 am

    Good read! Will definitely make my way over to Curzon ASAP!!