Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Gregg Toland, Cinematographer

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is the Cinematographer Gregg Toland:

Orson Welles was not one to share credit. But he shared end credit with the cinematographer, Gregg Toland, on “Citizen Kane”. It was his only way of expressing the important contribution Toland had made to the film.

Last year I spent some time studying “Citizen Kane” to figure out why it is still considered, if not the greatest film of all time, one of the greatest. In addition to the sound achievement by Welles and his team, Gregg Toland did things in that film that makes the film so important, things like deep focus and transitions.

I’ve always watched movies for the story. Studying “Citizen Kane” the way I did, listening to critic Roger Ebert’s commentary, made me realize that the film medium is indeed the cameraman’s medium. No director, no actor, no set designer, no producer has more impact on this visual medium than the director of photography. Now I watch movies I like, trying to get at what the cinematographer did to impact the story. It has impacted not only my viewing pleasure but the way I look at story. Gregg Toland taught me that.

Gregg Toland and the Tools of Immersion.

Nominated for six Oscars, he won once for “Wuthering Heights”. In addition to “Citizen Kane”, he was the cameraman for sixty-six films. These included “The Long Voyage Home”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “The Bishop’s Wife” and “The Best Years of Our Lives”. Unfortunately, he died at the young age of forty-four in 1948. What a loss.

Advertisements

micropoem for the day: photography

I love photography books. I can go to the library or the bookstore and spend hours on top of hours there. And that’s just with one book. The photographs visually take me to another place, another time. Recently I came across a photography book, The Atlas of Beauty. A young woman from Bucharest, Romania travels the world, taking photographs of women of all ages.

Many from India. There are women from China. Women from Afghanistan. Russian women. There are five hundred of these women in the book. And they are not models or actresses. They are street vendors and students, floral designers and weavers. They are women, just going about their day-to-days, their lives quite ordinary. Her concept is that women try to beautify what is already beautiful. Women are beautiful just the way they are.

The photographer
takes pictures, snap, snap, snap,
then perfection.

Picture-taking

The woman sat on a bench in the park. She worked on her journal.

Just behind and above her was a statue of a man, lauding the benefits of birding. His feet rested on her shoulders. His hands held a pair of binoculars to his eyes. Several birds rested on his bronze shoulders.

The woman glanced up. A photographer pointed his camera at her. She went back to jotting in her journal. “He’s taking my picture again. This is the third time.”

Tom was not a professional photographer. He liked snapping pictures as he roamed the city on his day off. “Why doesn’t she move out of the way so I can get a clear shot of the statue?” He moved a little to his left.

She continued her journal entry: “He must think I’d make a good model. I think so too.”

To avoid her, Tom moved around to the side of the statue. She stood up and moved back into his lens vision. He moved again. She moved too. This happened several times. Every time Tom changed his lens viewpoint, the woman changed her location. “Get the hell out of the way,” he thought. There was anger in his thoughts. Then, in resignation, he dropped the camera to his chest and walked away.

Journal entry: “I don’t want to be pushy but I just have to know. Does he plan on publishing my photograph?”

The woman went after Tom. Tom knew he was being followed, so he turned the corner and hurried into a hotel and hid behind the curtains. As she walked through the door, he noticed how interesting her face looked. Hmmm. He snapped several pictures. Then she was out the door. He rushed after her and out the hotel door. She was gone.

Shy?

Peek-a-boo. Bet you can’t take my picture. Snap. Oh, no. You didn’t get my face. Snap. Only got the top of my head. Snap. Laughing. Keep it up and you might just do your job. Snap. Missed again. Snap. No selfies for me. Snap. Hey, that’s not fair. You caught me when I least expected it. Snap. Hey, c’mon. That’s not fair. Snap. Give me that camera. Snap. C’mon. Snap. Thanks a lot. Snap. I had better not end up on Instagram. Snap. Or any of those other grams. Snap. All right. Snap. That’s it. That’s the last one. Hey, where you going? Don’t you want to take my picture. C’mon back. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. Please. Pretty please with Kodak on it.