Turns out the director of photography behind the first three Indiana Jones films, Douglas Slocombe, has led a life almost as exciting as Harrison Ford's adventurer; this master of the moving image, 100 years old as of last February (yup, 100,) started his career as a war photographer in Nazi Germany! Click below to watch a great documentary about the five-decade career of the man behind countless indelible images, featuring Richard Attenborough, Alan Parker, and Slocombe himself!
The British Slocombe earned his first moving picture gig as a documentary camera operator, endangering himself to film Hitler's infamous master of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels -- the "shattering" noise of his camera startled the Nazi chief and aroused the ire of stormtroopers, causing Slocombe and his camera to beat a hasty retreat, a moment no doubt worthy of a classic Jones chase sequence.
After WWII, he joined the legendary Ealing Studios in England, where for 20 years he helped define the look of some of British cinema's most representative and influential films ( this article is a great, in-depth look at Slocombe's career .)
And this documentary features Slocombe, as well as Richard Attenborough, Alan Parker, and other luminaries as they discuss the work and methods of the legendary cinematographer. Slocombe illustrates how a DP can create a unique look for each film while also showcasing their own personal style:
Over five decades, Slocombe carved out a singular career that led to films as diverse as Jesus Christ Superstar , the original Robert Redford adaptation of The Great Gatsby , and, of course, the first three entries in the Indy saga.
His work on Spielberg's classics helped establish a singular and influential look for modern adventure films, full of vibrant colors that managed to be both modern and evocative of the past inhabited by Dr. Jones (no doubt influenced in part by the suspenseful serials of Slocombe's youth, when he "used to go see every film.")
Slocombe's filmography is a virtual tour of cinema in the second half of the 20th century. Like most successful film artists, he was always a student of the moving image, and any filmmaker can take away the importance of always learning, always watching new movies, as well as old ones -- and ones you wouldn't think to watch, or have watched a hundred times.
What do you think Douglas Slocombe's lengthy and broad career as a cinematographer could teach an indie filmmaker of today? If you're a DP, what are your visual references, and how do you work to craft an aesthetic for every project while still maintaining your own style? Let us know in the comments!