Jack Cardiff


Jack Cardiff (OBE, BSC) 1914 – 2009.

Jack Cardiff is a personal hero of mine and I would recommend anyone interested in photography or film making to make a point to get to know his work.

Cardiff, began as a child actor with his parents in music hall and silent films and at 15 became a camera assistant and with in introduction of sound became the clapper boy.  In 1935 he moved to behind the movie camera and when Technicolor came to England he put himself forward to be trained as the operator of the first Technicolor camera in England.  He recalls that when interviewed he confessed that he hadn’t read the manual for the new camera and was asked frankly how he imagined how he was going to get on in the business?  He answered , “Well I am an amateur artist and I like to study the old masters and copy their works to understand how the light and compose.”  He was then asked from which side did Rembrandt light his subjects?  To which Cardiff panicked and guessed.  he guessed right and the following day he was told that he was to be the first and only British camera man to be trained to operate the new Technicolor camera.  In Cardiff’s long carrier he was privileged to film many of both British and American epics / classics.  To name a few: Knight without Armour, A matter of life and death, The red shoes, Black Narcissus, African Queen, Sons and Lovers, Death on the Nile, Rambo: First blood, part II, etc.

Cardiff photographed every British and American film-star  from the 1930 until the 21st centaury with many great stars asking for him.

In the 1960’s he turned his hand to directing and his first film Sons and Lovers won an Oscar.  Cardiff recalls that on meeting  Hitchcock at the awards, Hitchcock could not conceal his surprise that a mere cameraman could not only successfully direct a film but also an Oscar winning film.

Cardiff was awarded an Oscar in 1947 for ‘Black Narcissus’ for his photography.  Check the movie out see if you can guess which of the ‘Masters’ in oil painting influenced how he photographed some of these scenes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZRzcLK1Ar0

In 1995 The Society for Cinimagraphers conferred a lifetime achievement award to him, in 200o he was awarded an OBE, in 2001 he was awarded an honorary Oscar for his contribution to the cinema.

Also check out the documentary on the life of Jack Cardiff you will be surprised at some of the films this guy made and the list of movie stars and directors that proudly called him friend.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGLqNjrtsmg

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