Transitions: Michael Ballhaus (1936-2017)

Paying Attention:

Unless you are one of those who pay close attention to the credits that run before and after a film (I am), you might not have ever heard of Michael Ballhaus.

But you have seen his work.

He was a cinematographer, one of the best of all time, and if you seen the films of our times, you have seen his art and craft.

Did you see “Goodfellas”? “The Mighty Baker Boys”? “Quiz Show”, “The Marriage of Maria Braun”? “The Departed”? “Broadcast News”?

Michael Ballhaus was the DP (Director of Photography) or lead cinematographer for all of these films and many more.

He worked with the very best directors of our time, including Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, James L. Brooks, Robert Redford, Francis Ford Coppola and  Barry Levinson. He was nominated for three Academy Awards and won numerous other film citations during a career that reached legendary status. He didn’t just shoot a film, he enhanced it with his work. That’s why the very best directors enjoyed working with him and sought him out.

Mr. Ballhaus’ career is respectfully and intelligently celebrated in his obituary in The New York Times, written by Margalit Fox. 

You are encouraged to read it (it is an appreciatively superb piece of writing and research) and, even more appropriately, to enjoy Ms. Fox’s very beautifully presented analysis (the film clips are embedded in the piece) of the style and shots that made Michael Ballhaus one of the most creative cinematographers of our time.

Michael Ballhaus’ work will be with us for decades and his impact on cinematography (“it’s a movie, the camera has to move”) will influence the medium for generations to come.

Michael Ballhaus. A life well lived, celebrated in print for his work in film.

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