2014 Lessons from the past for the future

It is a privilege in my fifth year as President of Imago to send you Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and a successful New Year on behalf of all members of the Board.

The Imago Board consists of voluntary members from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Italy and Bulgaria. Our webmaster is from Portugal and the “Deputy” Board members represent Finland, Australia, Serbia and Israel.  Cinematographers are indebted to Dr Cristina Busch from Spain, our Legal Advisor who continues to promote the interests of cinematographers in Brussels.

Highlights of the past year have included a successful Conference at Mons, Belgium; participation in the Manaki Brothers and Camerimage Festivals, both devoted to cinematography; another outstanding Oslo Digital Conference organised by the Norwegians under Paul-Rene Roestad FNF and a continuation of the series of “Inspirational” Master Classes which transferred this year from Copenhagen to Vienna.

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The Balkan Conference in Bitola epitomised the value of Imago. It brought together for the second year delegates from seven nations, both cinematographers and those responsible for film production in the region. Cinematographers and guests found the Conference constructive and rewarding. One outcome will be a Directory of all Balkan Cinematographers and production facilities. Again Imago is grateful for the generosity and encouragement shown by the Manaki Brothers Festival Committee under Labina Mitevska in hosting this valuable Conference.

As each year ends it is also my pleasure to thank Imago sponsors without whom the Federation would accomplish little. Their role extends beyond generosity to friendship. Imago is grateful for the support and advice which is always offered. I make no apology for listing them for cinematographers to appreciate the companies which give more than lip service to support your Societies. They are : Band Pro Munich: Cirro Lite: DoP Choice: K5600 Lighting: Sparks, Camera and Lighting Budapest: Piuma World: Cooke Optics: Transvideo: Photo Cine Rent Paris: Ronford Baker: P&S Teknik GMBH: Panavision UK: ARRI Munich: Sony Nordic: Thales-Angenieux:  Airstar International: Eastman Kodak: Leica : Red Europe : Lee Filters: Miller Australia.

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Sponsors are vitally important to Imago but any successful initiative invariably depends on volunteers. This is illustrated in the organisation of the two Festivals dedicated to cinematographers[DW1] , the Manaki Brothers and Camerimage; In Bitola, Macedonia or Bydgoszcz in Poland unpaid volunteers serve the profession of cinematography selflessly. No-one present at the Gala ending of both these remarkable Festivals could have failed to be moved at the appreciative ovation given to the hundreds of volunteers on the stages taking the final bow as the curtain fell for another year. The best had been saved to last with tumultuous applause directed at the unseen heroes of the Festivals, the volunteers.

The past year has not been without turmoil for the Imago Board. The resignation from Imago of one of the four founding members, the AFC, was a tragedy.  The French alongside the Americans will remain in glorious isolation outside Imago, but will remain as our friends. They will not be missed for their antagonism to the principle of Authors Rights or improving working conditions. However they will be greatly missed for their commitment to improving the standards of cinematography. Imago shares their loss but cannot help but ask the question: whatever happened to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity?

 The successful launch of the new website by Tony Costa AIP justified the Imago Board’s decision to adopt his preferred system rather than the more expensive alternative offered by the AFC.  However Imago is grateful to Eric Guichard AFC for his efforts to assist the quest to improve the web site.

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Imago remains as an umbrella Federation of forty-seven Societies. Bosnia and Herzegovina were welcomed as new members in Mons.  The next IAGA (General Assembly) will be held in Delphi in Greece. A definitive Master Class for Greek cinematographers will take place in Athens in the preceding days at the request of the Greek Society, GSC. A “dream team” of Phedon Papamichael ASC and Haris Zambarloukos BSC has been provisionally arranged.

The new statutes transferring legal authority from Paris to Brussels have been examined and improved. They have only to be ratified in Delphi. They are the result of hard work by General Secretary, Louis-Philippe Cappelle SBC, with incisive contributions from the Danish and Austrian Societies. In historic Delphi, associate members of Imago from outside Europe will be offered the opportunity to become full members. Imago is already indebted for the assistance of Idan Or from the Israeli Association and Ron Johanson, President of the Australian ACS, for their contributions to the Working Conditions and Master Class committees.

 

The year has ended with an acrimonious debate among European archivists on the future presentation of the Czech ACK initiative known as DRA or Digital Preservation Authorizate. The Board of Imago is confident it can re-establish a positive and harmonious working relationship with other organisations, such as ACE, representing archivists. The Mons IAGA voted to adopt the DRA proposal in the belief it embodies the principle that cinematographers are morally entitled to participate in the digital restoration of our images. Assurances have been received from the archivists that the integrity of the image will be foremost in their restoration. Imago will be belatedly adding its signature to a European Statement in the coming weeks.MANAKI 3 2013

The importance of Restoration of our images will be graphically illustrated in 2014.  The media is about to unleash on television screens around the world a bombardment of visual imagery created one hundred years ago by the early pioneers of cinematography. Those kinematographers, as they were then known, manned cameras not machine guns to record the horrors of the First World War. Many never returned and the value of their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

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 Through imagery the past catches up with the present. The power of cinematography transcends frontiers, breaks down prejudice and injustice. Creates empathy for friend and foe alike. Those responsible for the capture of the moving image, in wars and famines, tragedies and triumphs, can be proud of their creative role capturing the moving image. They will be working this Christmas in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria and other places of strife. They are recording history through the medium of film, the amazing weapon which we are privileged to yield.

The Manaki Brothers thankfully survived the carnage in the Balkans during the First World War. In the charming Macedonian town of Bitola each year a homage is paid to these early pioneers the Festival is named after, the oldest of its kind still surviving.  The town is rebuilding its first movie theatre house in memory. The remarkable imagery captured by the two brothers of life in the early decades of the twentieth century has been painstakingly restored by archivists. It was screened in feature length at the opening of the last Festival.

A pilgrimage on a greater scale is made each year to the Polish city of Bydgoszcz.  Cinematographers, the great and the good together with the not-so great and the not-so-bad, gather to celebrate the latest triumphs of technological advance and view together good storytelling.  Artists from other film crafts, whether they be actors, designers, sound engineers, directors or producers, are overwhelmed by the experience. No other craft has anything to compare with it. Cinematographers salute the organisers for this mammoth annual achievement which they accomplish with panache year after year. Determination and courage are qualities in abundance in the Polish nature.

The cinematographer of the Conference continues to be Ed Lachman ASC whose courage and determination is an inspiration to all.Camerimage 2013

The Golden Frog went to the Polish film Ida. It would not have been funded in America although many ASC members present stated they would have welcomed an opportunity to shoot it. As an example of the importance of protecting the individual film culture of which Europe is so proud, it should be shown to students everywhere[DW2] . It is an outstanding example of the power of creative composition. A beautiful film in its own right it took a bold jury to award it and even bolder cinematographers in Lukas Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski to create it. The director was Pawel Panlikowski. 

As wise men bearing gifts three Italian cinematographers descended on the delightful city of Bydgoszcz. Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC had indeed not long returned from Mecca and the deserts of the Middle East.  Having departed Mohammad he and his fellow cinematographers, Imago’s own Luciano Tovoli and the President of the AIC Daniele Nannuzzi had arrived to launch their coffee table book. The fine book features the lives of 150 cinematographers from 1911 to the present. It is somewhat controversially illustrated but finely written with the assistance of Bob Fisher and Lorenzo Codelli.   Vittorio seized the launch opportunity to explain to the packed audience that cinematographers should never be named DOP’s. I need no excuse to repeat his thoughts. Not surprisingly the book is entitled “The Art of Cinematography.”

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 Most Imago Societies are rightly proud of their past and present. The best organised are looking towards the future. The Australian ACS is an example. The Society has been rewarded by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts with a cash prize of ten thousand dollars for “enhancing skills, exploring new technology, and passing on knowledge to those who follow in their footsteps. Their enthusiasm and generosity of spirit makes them the backbone of our industry.” A fine accolade for the stewardship of President Ron Johanson ACS.

The Societies making the greatest impact in improving standards are those who have discarded the notion that images of distinction are the prerogative of feature film cinematographers. Many cinematographers are fortunate to shoot one so-called “feature” film in their life-time. Ninety per cent of cinematographers earn their living working on films for television. Opportunities are often denied talented men and women to become members of the some Societies.  The young are learning earlier thanks to the enlightened generosity in teaching as illustrated by the ACS honour.

The past and present thinking of many Societies needs to be joined up to include the future. Any planning for the future is better than sitting back and in self-congratulations on past glories. Too many European organisations are based on the short term planning of politicians. Many of our Societies are not in a position to plan: most have little financial backing and are run on a shoe string. European Societies in the old eastern bloc have had their funding severely curtailed.  There is no easy answer to the conundrum. Imago must increase efforts to secure access to funds which still exist in the European Union for cultural funding.

The most famous football match in world history was played a hundred years ago. Unfortunately there was no kinematographers present to record the event for posterity. However still photographs remain and the match between German and British soldiers on the battlefield of Flanders took place on Christmas Day 2014.  I believe that the spirit found in those troops of liberty, fraternity and equality is still alive in Imago.

Success in the coming year will again depend on volunteers.  I should like to thank my fellow Board members for their commitment to Imago and sharing the successes along with the disappointments. They are: Louis-Philippe Cappelle SBC, General Secretary; Ivan Tonev BAC, Vice President; Luciano Tovoli AIC: Birgit Gudjonsdottir BvK: Elen Lotman ESC. The deputy Board members who are regularly consulted and have given valuable advice in the past year are Timo Heinanen FSC, Ron Johanson ACS, Pedrag Bambic SAS, Idan Or ACT. Tony Costa AIP has launched the new web site IMAGO.ORG and is responsible for the excellent Facebook contribution. Last but not least we are even dependant on the generosity and guidance of our Legal Advisor, Dr Cristina Busch.

Nigel Walters BSC

Imago President.