Posted on: September 16, 2020 Posted by: Stewart Wall Comments: 0

I’ve had a copy of a book called “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon for many years, which for many of us translates to GET INSPIRED BY ART.

I was reminded of the book as I read an article this morning about a film which is to be released on Netflix in Oct 2020 called ‘The Devil All The Time’. What really interested me was how the film’s director describes how he looked to stills photography and painters for his inspiration on technique, such things as colour pallete, tonality and mood. This is what I mean by getting inspired by art, aka the art of others.

The article, written by Adrian Pennington on  begins:

You can eulogise about digital all you want but I defy anyone to get as close to the colour, detail and texture of 1950s Americana as British cinematographer Lol Crawley BSC does with 35mm on The Devil All The Time’

It is common knowledge that the 35mm stills photography world relied heavily on the movie industry using 35mm film, but now half a century later we have the director of this new film, Antonio Campos describe how he was inspired by “documentary photographers like Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank who tracked across America taking portraits of people on the breadline”.

He goes on to write how he also looked at “the painting of Andrew Wyatt, helped to inform the composition and the honesty to the rural environment. As we progress through the story, we looked at contrasting that with a certain sense of modernity. The colour photography of William Eggleston was a reference here”.
Even the artist, Edward Hopper gets a mention when a scene is discussed that uses lighting over a pool table reminiscent of the way he worked..

But what really caught my attention were these words:

“Kodak no longer makes the range of stock it did in the 1950s and ‘60s when The Devil is set. Crawley used Vision3 500T (Tungsten) 5219 and 250D (daylight) 5207 stocks and push processed them where possible to obtain the look.

“I push processed more earlier on in the story to draw out more grain and in later periods of the film I was a little cleaner in my exposure to deliver a sense of modernity”

When I am talking to students I have often asked them why they adopted a certain look for their images, and the answer I am looking for is something like that last line; I believe everything in an image should be part of the message-making process.

It October I am delivering a documentary photography course for the Royal Photographic Society where you can learn how professional photographers approach story telling, and then maybe use their approaches for your own work. We can all create documentary photography from around our immediate surroundings to show others what the world is really like. If you would like more details of the course click on the image above which is of Ian Berry the Magnum photographer

Leave a Comment