Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asc Close-Up

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Asc Close-Up

Article excerpt

Lowell Peterson, ASC

When you were a child, what film made the strongest impression on you?

My sister Wendy used to take me to the movies, and she created in her little brother a lifelong movielover. When I was a little boy, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) scared the hell out of me, but I was fascinated by the fantasy world Ray Harryhausen created. As a young teenager, I was in awe of the epic quality of Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and in retrospect, I'm certain I responded to the 65mm photography of Monument Valley

Which cinematographers, past or present do you most admire, and why?

When I first came to Los Angeles, there were five Japanese movie theaters, and the lighting and compositions in the films they played resonated with me. Kazuo Miyagawa shot the great Mizoguchi films, but in his later career at Daiei Studios, he became a master of color cinematography. Fujio Morita shot many of Hideo Gosha's movies. I also admire Sven Nykvist, ASC for his ability to illuminate the inner lives of women. Russell Metty, ASC is another big influence; he applied blackand-white technique to shooting color, and his work with Douglas Sirk is an inspiration for my current project. Desperate Housewives. Of the many great modern cinematographers, I most admire Gordon Willis, ASC.

What sparked your interest in photography?

I joined a college film society and watched a lot of movies. I remember having a sort of epiphany when I saw Rebel Without a Cause and realized there was a grammar to making movies. I was struck by the scene on the living-room stairs between James Dean and Jim Backus, and how the use of high and low camera angles visually expressed the drama of the scene.

Where did you train and/or study?

I did some acting as a child and toured with a theatrical company. The sense of belonging to a community of artists was very appealing. I enrolled at Yale intending to study architecture, but after joining the Yale Film Society, I began to see the possibility of a career in the movies. Eventually I ended up at UCUVs film school.

Who were your early teachers or mentors?

Bobby Liu, ASC taught me how to block a scene and line up a shot. Ed Brown, ASC taught me a lot about framing and operating. And from Craig Denault I learned about lighting with big sources and how to use soft light on actresses while creating contrast in other parts of the frame. All of them showed me how to treat a crew with respect and get joy from the day-to-day work.

What are some of your key artistic influences?

The quality of light in Watteau and Vermeer, the compositions of Utamaro, the Zone System of Ansel Adams, the directing styles of Vincente Minnelli and Nicholas Ray, the group improvisation of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, and modem opera and theater. …

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