Robert Altman (1925-2006)
Photograph by Steve Pyke
One of America’s great, maverick, film director’s Robert Altman died yesterday. Like many of you I’m sure, I remember his sprawling, epic visions of America, and the thrilling and unexpected sense of awakening that came with seeing Nashville and The Long Goodbye for the first time, fllms that prised open your ideas of visual storytelling.
But what also flashes up in my mind when I think of Altman is his portrait shot by photographer Steve Pyke.
There’s no reason to think that because someone lives by their creative ‘eye’, that their face would embody that, or express that. But Altman’s eyes in Steve’s photo are hypnotic, everything is sucked in by those eyes, it’s almost painful keep his gaze.
I sent Steve a quick mail asking whether he had any memories of shooting Altman and he wrote back,
“Robert Altman has always rated one of my favourite directors if only for California Split. I was asked to photograph him in London for Premiere. He reminded me of Robert E Lee the southern civil war general. He seemed to me to have a lot of those older southern qualities, polite and gracious but also with him was a protective distance honed from years behind the camera.”
Rest in peace Robert Altman.