photo: IMAGO President Nigel Walters
When the proposed Imago International Cinematographers Hall of Fame is inaugurated one Canadian name will feature prominently. It is that of Joan Hutton CSC who has retired after serving twenty two years as President of her Society. Not only is Joan the longest serving past President of any Imago Society but as the first lady President anywhere she deserves her place in history of the Federation.
It was to honour her dedication and role in building a successful Society that the CSC recently held in Toronto a meticulously organised Awards Gala. As a delegate representing fellow cinematographers at many International Conferences Joan Hutton was responsible for encouraging the CSC to join Imago, thereby introducing the Federation’s presence on North American soil.
It was to show Imago’s appreciation that as President I had the privilege of presenting the Imago Tribute to Joan. It is simply a Spectra Meter mounted on a plinth, fortunately not yet a complete relic of a previous age in film making. The first of the four previously awarded went to Giuseppe Rotunno AIC, Fellini’s cinematographer, who is known in Italy as “Mr 5.6”. By luck rather than judgement they all read 5.6 anyway! By good fortune it also proved to be Joan’s favourite light meter. It was presented for her dedication to her Society and support for the international aims of Imago. By example of their support to establish a strong global organisation the Canadians, the Japanese, Israelis, New Zealanders and Australians had been a crucial factor in persuading the European Societies to evolve Imago into its present community.
Joan Hutton CSC
George Willis CSC SASC President of CSC
The sitting Board of Imago comes to the end of its six year term of office in Jerusalem next October. In an interview by Guido Kondross of the Canadian Cinematographer I was asked where I thought Imago to be heading in future years. Not a simple question to answer. It is not as easy to foresee the future as it is to look back on past mistakes and reflect on challenges which should have been handled with greater wisdom.
It requires a clairvoyant to predict the role of the cinematographer in twenty years yet alone that of Imago! Not every Society has had a leader like Joan, although the Austrians were favoured to secure the dedication of Kurt Brazda as the rock on which their Society was established. The Luciano Tovolis of our profession are few and far between and every Society is dependent for survival on the dedication of one or two individuals. Cinematographers are fortunate to have such colleagues giving freely of their time to improve standards of cinematography, to restore respect in our profession and to fight for better working conditions and a just reward for our creativity. There are encouraging signs that younger cinematographers are showing a desire to actively contribute to creating more civilized working lives to meet the pressures of this digitalised World.
In the last six years I have been struck by the generosity and goodwill towards one another by members of our profession. Imago’s Master Classes are an example. They do not only embrace technology but primarily focus on the inspiration which creates images. Inspiration is a two way experience; many “master” cinematographers admit to the inspiration they themselves have experienced by just attending these Master Classes.
Many years ago I shot a film in Japan. When it was completed the crew clubbed together and bought an expensive gift for our interpreter. It was a framed print which was duly wrapped and presented to him at the end of production party. He showed great delight; when we asked him why he had not opened it he replied was that the act of opening in the presence of the giver would imply the possibility of displeasure. His pleasure was receiving the gift. To open it was an act of disrespect!
To appreciate one another we have to appreciate that cultural differences within our organisations are a reflection of Society itself. We all have something to learn from each other. There are no identical rooms in the house that Imago has patiently built from the original inspiration of an Italian some twenty three years ago. Cinematographers as artists can now enjoy the freedom of crossing physical frontiers. The frontiers of understanding the more intricate machinations of the minds of cinematographers require greater patience.
All cinematographers will benefit by the CSC joining Imago. What each Society contributes to communicating with another is usually returned with interest. No miracle cure exists for solving problems but by using the internet and the tools available to us we have the means to help each other. Imago will continue to work to press for improvements through legislation in the European Union to improve the vulnerability of the growing army of self-employed workers in the film industry. Co-authors rights for cinematographers already exist in many countries. Efforts to persuade our legislators are beginning to bear fruit as Imago has repeatedly explained the logic and justice of our cause of residual rights to European legislators mainly through the efforts of our legal advisor, Dr Cristina Busch.
It was with more than a twist of outrageous fortune that Imago was forced to cancel at a late hour the planned March Brussels Conference on which so many hopes were resting. Everything was in place for a memorable and successful day. Guest speakers of great distinction were in place. The Danish DFF were sending to the conference delegates to illustrate how they are able to achieve excellent cinematography in civilised working conditions. A wide range of issues in the agenda included the problems of the self-employed film worker and the role of the cinematographer in the Restoration and Archiving of our images.
Unfortunately the planned Cine equipment exhibition to help finance the Conference failed to materialise. A perfect storm of misfortune ensured key personnel to the Conference success found themselves filming on different Continents. More backup will be needed in future. An apology is owed to the many who were disappointed. Gratitude is due to those whose contribution promised to make this event the most important in our twenty three year history. Many lessons will have been learnt for the future. Imago must never lose the energy and enthusiasm of all our voluntary Board members. They are the backbone of our profession. However there is future requirement for a more professional base for our operations. A permanently manned office with a Secretary is essential.
The Societies of Australia and Israel, the Japanese, New Zealanders, and latterly Canadians are now members with full voting rights. The CSC on the evidence of their outstanding Award Gala has much to offer Imago. Film is still taught at their outstanding faculty at Ryerson University. Their President George A Willis CSC, SASC will be attending the IAGA in Israel, the first to be held outside Europe. The interests of Societies outside Europe are now represented by a Board member and the aspirations of the remaining “associate” nations who will not be forgotten. Malaysia is expected to be accepted as such a member in October.
Imago will continue to support the two Festivals dedicated to the craft of Cinematography. The oldest is the Manaki Festival in Macedonia and the flag bearer for our profession is Camerimage in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Imago must sadly say farewell to Labina Mitevska, the former Festival Director of the Manaki Festival, the oldest devoted to the craft of Cinematography anywhere. Imago owes much to Labina who is returning to pursue her acting career. She has transformed her Festival into the most glamourous and successful in Macedonia. Her replacement is Dimitar Nikolov who has extended the Festival by two days and has introduced two new competitions, including SEE CAMERA which focuses and encourages cinematographers of films from South Eastern Europe.
Thanks to the generosity of the Manaki Festival, Imago has been able to hold in Bitola for the last three years one of its most important events in its calendar. It is the Imago Balkan Conference which encourages understanding by communication in the region as well as helping to improve standards of cinematography.
An eagerly anticipated event early this October, usually supported by distinguished members of the ASC, is the Imago Oslo Digital Cinema Forum, organised by Paul-Rene Roestad and the Norwegian FNF. Imago is appreciative of the smaller Societies in particular associating their events with pride with the umbrella Federation. Using the logo of Imago is synonymous with working together for the common good.
The Finnish Society held a successful inaugural Film week-end last November whereby the larger Scandinavian Societies were hosts to cinematographers from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Possibly a regular Baltic Conference could point the way to the future of Imago with similar meetings taking place in South America, Eastern Europe and Asia, bringing together cinematographers to communicate and examine regional problems.
The final event of 2015 for Cinematographers will be the evergreen experience of Camerimage in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Ten years have passed since the declaration of Lodz passed a resolution that “the working conditions of many Film and TV Productions have deteriorated to such a critical degree that immediate action is imperative.” The signatories included Vilmos Zsigmond, Billy Williams, Jost Vacano, Kees van Oostrum, Alfonso Beato and Phedon Papamichael. Among those present were Lazlo Kovacs ASC and Gerry Fisher BSC. Imago honours their memory as it does that of Mirislav Ondricek whose death recently marks the loss of an inspirational and respected Czech cinematographer.
As I continue these Presidential Ramblings (an expression much loved by the Australian President of the ACS, Ron Johanson) I am reminded of a recent email from Haskell Wexler ASC. His missives are seldom addressed correctly but they have a habit of arriving, eventually. His latest is a reminder by the nature of its contents that when the Imago Hall of Fame becomes a reality the pride of place should be reserved for Conrad Hall ASC.
There are no apologies, following the anniversary of the tragic death of Sarah Jones through criminal negligence by the producers, to quote once more Conrad Hall’s statement: “Our responsibility is to the visual image of the film as well as the well-being of our crew. We strive to explore the language of cinematography and the art of storytelling. The expanding practice of working extreme hours seriously compromises both the quality of our work and the health and safety of others. I believe it is my obligation and the obligation of every Cinematographer to oppose a practise that compromises our creative ability as well as the health and well-being of every member of the crew.”
Nothing much has changed since the Camerimage declaration.
Nigel Walters BSC