The American Society of Cinematographers

Loyalty • Progress • Artistry
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Return to Table of Contents March 2011 Return to Table of Contents
The Adjustment Bureau
Career TV Award
Presidents Award
Page 2
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
ASC Close-Up
He recalls observing Richard H. Kline, ASC on the set of Camelot. “The director, Joshua Logan, was an excellent stage director, and the photographic aspects of the shoot were primarily in [Kline’s] hands. I looked around at this massive stage set, all the lights and everything involved in the cinematography of the picture, and there was this guy, only a little older than I was at the time, who was in control of all of it. The Sound of Music was another eye-opener. The cinematographer, Ted McCord [ASC], was doing all this work with these huge arc lights to get the effect he wanted.”

Occasionally, a cinematographer has also adopted something Kirkland has done, which happened with David Watkin, BSC on Out of Africa. Kirkland recalls, “I was shooting Kodachrome at the time because it was just the best for clarity and saturation, but I wanted to give the images something of a sepia look. So even though Kodachrome was daylight balanced, I shot with an 85 filter. When David saw the pictures, he liked the look so much he decided to give the whole film a warmer look. That was very flattering!”

Kirkland’s editors typically did not share his interest in the craft of filmmaking, instead favoring shots of celebrities, and in his celebrity portraiture Kirkland has captured some amazing candids of such icons as John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Sellers, Marlon Brando and Charlie Chaplin. “My thing is to be honest, and most celebrities respond to that,” he declares. “We all know there are a few arrogant lost souls in the business, but I’ve found that nine out of 10 are good if you are honest with them and have the right attitude. I am as at ease with celebrities as the members of the ASC are. It’s part of the job.”

When Look went out of business in 1971, the company returned photo copyrights to its staff photographers. “They were nice Midwestern people,” notes Kirkland. “They felt that was the right thing to do, letting the photographers own the work they had made. Some of the work went to the Library of Congress, but all the photographers had access to it whenever they needed it. Can you imagine a company doing that today?”

By then very well established, Kirkland segued into a staff job for Look’s primary competitor, Life, and he continued working for Life in its many different forms until the magazine shut down in the 1990s. Most of this work was also celebrity and entertainment-industry driven. During this time, Kirkland also freelanced for numerous other publications, tackling travel photography in Siberia, Africa and South America, and science-related work for such magazines as Geo and Omni.

Today, Kirkland continues to work six or seven days a week, and Françoise, his wife of more than 40 years, remains an integral part of his business. Though the technology and business landscape in the world of photography have changed enormously since his career began, Kirkland is always optimistic when budding photographers ask him about the future. “You have to keep at it and try to find a way in,” he notes. “If I had to do it over, I couldn’t do it the same way now, but I would find a way. I think a lot of young photographers are doing that.”


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