Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vermeer’s Light

The New York Times last week featured a Dutch photographer named Bert Teunissen who tries to copy the lighting of Dutch masters such as Johannes Vermeer in his photographs. A slideshow of his photos accompanies the story. You can also go to Teunissen’s own site to see more photos. The Vermeer-esque atmosphere of these photos is incredible—as if Vermeer himself was still painting interiors today.

This story reminded me of the movie Black Narcissus, in which the directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and the cinematographer Jack Cardiff tried to copy the light of Vermeer’s art in several scenes of the film. In fact, the opening scene of the film is an almost exact copy of Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (shown above). I remember first seeing Black Narcissus without knowing about the use of Vermeer’s staging and being stunned by the opening scene’s homage. In a “making of” extra film on the DVD, Cardiff also admitted the influence of Rembrandt and Van Gogh on the film, but it’s the use of Vermeer that I remember best. Black Narcissus won Oscars in 1948 for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

[Hat tip to Ed Pettit of The Bibliothecary Blog for passing this on to me. Thanks, Ed!]

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