By Junsui Films | January 2012
The Motion Picture Stills Photographer talks exclusively to Junsui Films about his career in photography, his passion for the craft and tells us all about his work on the film, CORIOLANUS…
Junsui Films: Let’s start with your photographic roots and how you got your start in the industry.
Larry D. Horricks: Well, I’m not one of those photographers who was given a Kodak Brownie at the age of ten and from that point knew that photography was what I wanted to do with my life. I did, however, have a strong need to express myself but I was very unfocused as to how I might do that.
Early on I thought it might be through writing but I discovered that I was drawn more to visual expression and began to experiment along those lines. Through a series of events and paths followed, I ended up studying at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. After my first year of study at Brooks I switched from photography to the relatively newly formed Cinema program. After leaving Brooks I really had no idea what I was going to do, but I somehow wanted to combine photography with cinema. A chance meeting with a writer for Cinema Canada Magazine got me an introduction to the editor. I guess he felt my interest in both photography and film was a plus and from there, I ended up working as a contributing photographer.
The more time I spent around film sets, the more I wanted to work on films, and through another set of strange paths and events I ended up working a duel career of freelance editorial photography while working my way through a number of film related departments. I eventually became a senior member of the Directors Guild of Canada and worked for quite a number of years as a location manager, assistant director, and even UPM, while still keeping my photography alive.
At some point I guess I decided that I wanted return to my photographic roots and focus entirely on my photography. Although working on films is certainly not my only interest photographically, I very much enjoy the collaborative effort involved in making a film. I have been involved in the film industry one way or another for almost 30 years, so it seemed only natural to devote at least some of my photographic energy to working within the world I know so well. So far it’s worked out.
JF: Which artists, photographic or otherwise, have influenced and inspired your work?
I think at the top of the list of photographers who have influenced me would be Deborah Turbeville. She has a wonderful way of creating drama and mystery in her imagery and her work continues to inspire me. Other influences would include photographers like: Mark Sink, Lisette Model, Robert Frank, Josef Sudek, Arnold Newman, Anton Corbijn, Wim Wenders and more recently the works of Robert Mann, Michael Ackerman and Scott Irvine. I think in many ways Scott’s work is as good as photography gets.
A sense of place is very important in my photographs especially when it comes to portraiture. I think filmmakers like Wim Wenders and Lasse Hallström have had an influence in how I see the world. I’m often attracted to a sense of emptiness or abandonment. I like shooting in these types of environments.
JF: Your photography boasts a very personal and distinct style. Tell us about your process when approaching a subject.
I’m not an extroverted person. I think a lot, I process a lot, I observe a lot. So when I photograph I like to be freed from this. I need to let go and not allow too much of my thought process to rule the day. Usually what I’m after finds its way to me without me having to orchestrate a feeling or energy. I suppose somehow my photography brings out the more contemplative, quiet aspect of my subject, likely because that is what I am most connected to in myself and the world around me.
I think for this reason when I’m working on a film, I am drawn to those quieter moments on set. The silent intensity of the creative process. Almost without exception my favourite images have come from these moments.
JF: You’ve worked on a number of renowned films including Hellboy, Casino Royale and Good. Tell us a little bit about your role as a stills photographer and the challenges you face when on set.
Although there are certain elements of the “Stills” brief that are universal to all films, I find my work varies from film to film and if weren’t for that I don’t think I would be doing it.
For example, on Casino Royale I was hired to create a set of images that were used for screen displays and art dept props. Most of the work entailed surveillance type shots, crime scenes and reportage looking portraits of the key villains. [Director] Martin Campbell was very specific in what he was looking for and I was given a week with my own independent team to prep and shoot everything. It was a lot of fun.
When possible I try to work on films where I am afforded a good degree of freedom and (photographic) access to the creative process and those involved in it. I tend to find this scenario more often exists on independent projects, than it does on the larger studio films. That being said, studio projects can be fantastic… it’s just a different set of dynamics and thus has to handled as such.
As far as my role is concerned, I guess this is somewhat defined by the need of the film. Providing a broad set of deliverable imagery for areas such as publicity, marketing, product placement makes for a wide variety of shooting and skill set, and I think that accomplishing this within the dynamics and mechanics of a working film set can be a big challenge. The making of the film always comes first and its up to us as “Stills” photographers to deliver what everyone needs photographically within those working confines and not get in the way of “the film”. It can be frustrating at times but there is a great sense of accomplishment when we are successful at making it all happen.
Studios and producers like photographers who get the job done with as little fuss and oversight as possible. The job requires a thick skin, resourceful work ethic and genuine ability to work and coexist with others. On a personal level, I think the biggest challenge I face when working on films is to keep my creative vision alive within the constraints and constructs of the working environment of a film, to be able to contribute something to the film which is truly mine. At the end of the day, I guess I would like to think I’m being brought on board a film for a distinct vision I may have, and the only way for this to happen is to create and present a body of work which speaks to that. I am always on the look out for creative possibilities beyond what is expected as part of the brief and I hope that is why I am hired to work on a film.
JF: Let’s talk Coriolanus and the creative motive behind your decision to employ a photojournalistic approach.
I think the decision as to how I approached the film was rooted in Ralph Fiennes’ insightful concept to have the film take place in a modern day setting, to which screenwriter John Logan provided an extremely well written and timely adaptation to work from.
I read the script while traveling by train from Prague to Belgrade (where Ralph and the producers chose to make the film). How I would attempt to photograph this film became clearer with every page I turned. It was a time of political turmoil and intrigue, public unrest and anger, armed conflict and violent uprising against oppression. Here was a commentary of human behaviour, created 400 years ago, yet resonated so closely with events of our time. There was no doubt I had to approach my work as though I was a part of the landscape and a photographer of the time. I had such wonderful, support and cooperation from everyone involved – Ralph, the producers and a simply remarkable cast.
Working with Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd really kept me on my toes, and his real-world lighting and shooting style brought this world in which we were working, into sharp visceral focus. Ricky Eyres’ production design and set decoration created a backdrop of chilling reality. Daniel Parker’s make-up and Bojana Nikitovic’s costume design gave personality and life to the characters, and Ralph brought it all together to make us believe, each and every day we were out there. Ralph is a consummate and tireless communicator and knew precisely what he wanted to do. I was fortunate to be a part of his directorial debut and in some small way contribute.
I’m also working (with Ralph and Producer Colin Vaines) on a book of black and white photography from Coriolanus. One thing I didn’t want was for the photographs in the book to look like “Film Stills”, I was really after that classic look of the late 60′s/early 70′s reportage… inspired by the imagery of the great photographers like Don McCullin, David Burnett and Raymond Depardon. Coriolanus provided the perfect opportunity for this to be realised. Hopefully there can be an accompanying exhibit of the work in the near future; something in the line of what my colleague Murray Close did recently with his fabulous “With Nail and I” photographs. I think it’s very important as movie stills photographers that we don’t get stuck in the machinery of the industry and work hard to keep our artistic hearts pumping.
JF: Are there any further artistic mediums you’d like to work in which would compliment your photography work?
As far as other mediums go, I don’t think so. However, I’m always trying to employ different photographic processes and techniques to my work on films. I would love to one-day shoot a film using only large format (both instant film and regular negative sheet film). No digital, no blimp just a collection of portraits, set landscapes, found objects and abstracts. I just need to find someone who wants to take a chance on that. I know there is someone out there somewhere.
JF: Throughout your career has there been a particular project, subject or shot you consider a personal favourite?
When it comes to something while working on a film, I would have to say the work I did on the feature film Solomon Kane (2009) where I shot with a Holga lens attached to one my DSLRs would be very close to my favourite. My idea was that I wanted to create a set of images which were like a view to the tortured mind of Solomon Kane (played by the James Purefoy). They are dark and unsettling, and some of my favourite images from my work on films. I am in the process of making a book from them called “Sixty Days of Dark”.
JF: And finally, what can you tell us about the upcoming film, The Raven?
Director James McTiegue is an excellent filmmaker and storyteller and such a lovely man to work with. It’s certainly going to be dark and disturbing. I think the writers approached the material and the enigmatic Edgar Allan Poe from a very interesting and intriguing point of view. It was not an easy film to make and was a tough film to work on, but it should prove very entertaining.