We owe this man everything.
Some sad news began circulating the internet this week for filmmakers, as it was revealed that Ross Lowell, inventor of gaffer tape, died January 10th at his home in Pound Ridge, New York. In addition to founding the lighting company Lowel-Light, the maverick of filmmaking ingenuity was also an award-winning director and cinematographer.
As a cinematographer in the 1950s, Lowell became frustrated with the lighting options available for shooting footage outside broadcast studios, so he began experimenting with alternate ways of lighting. His first idea was to fashion a small socket on a ball swivel that could accept a flood light and also be attached to various mounts.
His company, Lowel-Light, continued down this path and designed more portable lighting systems. By the time he was done, he held more than 20 patents for his lighting products. This led to an Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 1979 for “the development of compact lighting equipment for motion picture photography.”
It was in the process of creating his swivel lighting mount that Lowell found a need to create a kind of heat-resistant tape that could be used to tape lights to a vertical surface. Essentially, he took the adhesive used on duct tape and attached to a type of fabric, and “gaffer tape” was born.
As filmmakers, we all owe this man a tremendous amount of gratitude.