People who know the craft of cinematography say it is nothing more than pictures in motion: in any case, you look through a lens, capture a moment and–if you have done your work well– you evoke something unforgettable in the viewer. Being a photographer for many decades, Steven Poster knows about the art of making things visible. He shoots timeless photographs in black and white; it seems as if he does not want color to distract and take away from the essence. His style reminds one of the French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, who developed a new genre of photo-journalism, “The Real Life Reportage.”
When asked what it is in an emerging talent that gains his attention, it is no wonder Steven Poster replies: “Telling a story with images in a way that furthers the story but doesn’t call attention to the person behind the camera. “
Behind the lens, there is no room for the ego.
In his function as President of the International Cinematographers Guild, Poster holds the annual event of the Emerging Cinematographers Awards. It is an event for members of the Guild, such as camera assistants, still photographers and camera operators, who get a shot at getting much needed exposure in the industry. The ones that stand out to the jury will meet with agents and get a screening in front of a large audience in both Los Angeles and New York.
To Steven Poster, giving new talent a platform is part of giving back: “I would say, if you want to be successful in this business (it is as much a crap shoot as anything), the idea is: you have to go out and do as much as possible. Persevere, and you can make it.”
While moving swiftly though the entry hall after the awards show, being stopped for small talk and greeted left and right (you can easily see that he is the most important person in the room), he says to me: “What’s important to me is the story. I will go in any direction to tell a story.”
And stories he did tell, in his function as a leading cinematographer for the big Hollywood studios. As a director of photography, he worked on numerous high profile projects, among them Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Mrs. Harris (Emmy nominated), RocketMan and Donnie Darko. Hollywood’s famous film stars were standing in front of his camera: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Jake Gyllenhaal, Madonna and Annette Bening, just to name a few.
Knowing how to tell a story though the lens, he has one expectation of a good screenplay in particular: “One that I want to read from cover to cover without putting it down. A story that I can visualize as I read it and that holds my interest.” Visualization–of course, Mr. Poster.
Now, which new projects are in the works for him?
With a clear expression in his eyes, he answers: “We don’t talk about these things until we are actually working.”
In Hollywood, a city with a notorious and frequently-deserved reputation for “hot air,” you learn to appreciate his modesty. And you find that his reluctance to gossip about projects that may never come to fruition is more common than you might think among Hollywood’s true players.