Look Book: The mid-century photojournalists that inspired Carol

“Far from Heaven was inspired by the Douglas Sirk melodramas of the (late 1950s), but with Carol we weren’t referencing the cinema of the late ’40s and early ’50s. We instead looked at the photojournalists who were documenting the time. Many of them happened to be women, people like Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt, Ruth Orkin, and later Vivian Maier. Another reference was Saul Leiter, who we also referenced in Mildred Pierce. The idea was to create these layered compositions that were like obscured abstractions, images seen in reflections and in partly visible spaces through car windows, diners, apartments, doorway glass spattered in raindrops, urban steam and the night’s condensation. All these ideas are about creating an emotional language in a story through the images that represents who these characters are and their emotional states.” – Ed Lachman, Carol cinematographer, in Filmmaker Magazine

Back in May of last year, I took a look at the inspiration that mid-century New York street photographer Saul Leiter lent to Ex Machina. Leiter’s name surfaced again when I recently interviewed Carol cinematographer Ed Lachman for Filmmaker Magazine – along with the names of a host of other photojournalists from the era. Here’s a look at some of their work, which informed the desaturated, muted tones of Carol’s Ektachrome-esque palette as well as the film’s motif of obscured abstractions. Click on any photo for a larger version.

Saul Leiter

Esther Bubley

Helen Levitt

Ruth Orkin

Vivian Maier

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