Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Stanley Kubrick

An exhibition of some of my photographs that I took during the filming of A Clockwork Orange, directed by Stanley Kubrick, opens on March 19, 2016 at Ono Arte Contemporanea in Bologna, Italy.

Time spent with Stanley Kubrick
I first heard about Stanley Kubrick in 1963 from a film publicist who had worked on two of his films. She recommended I see Paths of Glory which had just come out in London. After seeing it I asked the editor of the magazine Queen if she would be interested in an article about him. She agreed and I went down to Shepperton Studios where he was making Dr. Strangelove. When I arrived he was standing at a makeshift table on the war room set playing chess with a large man in an American Air Force uniform seated opposite him General Turgidson, played by the late George C. Scott.

When I said goodbye to Stanley at the end of the day, he asked me if I would like to work for him,
“You stand in the right place.” he added. I said yes to his invitation, though knowing perfectly well that the last person you want to be on a film set is a stills photographer. You are always in the way, and in my experience, actors don't really like their pictures taken. That was the start of my association with Stanley as a guest photographer on three of his films. I guess I just liked Stanley and he operated the camera himself, which I thought was unusual and sensible. An image that has stuck in my mind is the way he hand-held his stripped down Arriflex — so gently, and as though it weighed no more than a packet of Camel cigarettes.

His children used to come and sit beside him on the set. His eldest, Vivian, became an accomplished musician and film maker herself. I recommend a short film called Stanley Kubrick's Boxes directed by Jon Ronson, because in it are two clips by Vivian of her father, showing his sharpness and humor, and his calmness. It also shows the tracking shots through burning buildings towards the end of Full Metal Jacket, which Vivian scored. When I knew Vivian, sitting beside her father on the set, she was more worried about her pet mice than the techniques of film making. Stanley was worried about them too. Stanley particularly liked cats (and all animals for that matter) and I made a print for him of a photograph he took of one of his cats sitting on a shelf in his office. He wrote me such a charming letter thanking me.

When I spoke to Adrienne Corri after her rape in “A Clockwork Orange” she was full of praise for Stanley's handling of the filming. He was fair, patient, considerate and endlessly painstaking. She said that she too had received a charming letter from him, thanking her for being such a “sport.” I remember one of his directorial commands to her: “Turn around, Adrienne, we're paying you for full frontal.”

After chess, ping-pong was his favorite game. I'm not sure he ever beat Malcolm McDowell whereas he almost always won his chess games whoever the opponent. His ping-pong table, when I knew him, was under a tent on the front lawn of his house.

There was with Stanley never a question of accepting a shot or a take, until he knew it was right. It looked like he answered to no-one, but, at the same time he listened to everybody he thought knew something that he did not the people from NASA, advice from the director of photography about lighting, his co-writers and his executive producer, the actors and designers. I don't know if he listened to the studio executives, but one day I turned up on the set and we hung around for a couple hours waiting for Stanley to appear. I asked what was happening. Somebody said, “We are expecting a visit from the studio executives so Stanley won't be coming in today.”

Copyright: Dmitri Kasterine 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Eleanor's Best

This is a selection of jams made by our friend Jennifer Mercurio in Cold Spring, New York. She actually makes 14 different flavors. One of my favorite jams is gooseberry. Gooseberries have a short season and are hard to find so she has not made it yet. I will rush to it when she does, because, if the other flavors are anything to judge by, there will be no finer gooseberry jam. Jennifer and her husband Joseph have recently bought some land in Garrison where they will farm chickens, and I hope, grow fruit, including gooseberries.  


Sunday, February 7, 2016

A 14 year-old on Lander Street, Newburgh, NY

There are times when a photographer needs a reference. It is not unlikely that when your 14 year-old daughter is stopped in the street and asked by a stranger if they may photograph her, the mother, who  was in this case standing nearby, is going to consider the matter and ask questions. The mother said No, she did think she wanted any pictures of her daughter. As I was walking away, along comes our friend Point, a neighbor and friend of the mother and daughter. He had been observing the encounter. He vouched for me and I took the pictures.

Seldom do you see this particular street in Newburgh, Lander Street, so empty. It is usual packed with children on scooters and bikes, neighbors chatting to each other and women hurrying to work. It must have been too early in the day for any of that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Father and daughter

Film maker Richard Kroehling with his daughter Lina at their house on a hilltop overlooking other hilltops outside Cold Spring, New York. Lina is a biologist and artist. I first saw Richard at Dogwood, a pub in the neighboring town of Beacon. I thought what a distinguished looking man. His daughter was in the shadows but Caroline told me she would only add to the picture. She knew them from Facebook.

Richard's wife Laura makes very good coffee. Straight, strong, dark stuff, nothing artisan or fancy flavored. She also makes her own bread, the no-knead recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery, Little Italy, NYC. 

Their house is one of the friendliest and warmest that I have visited in the Hudson Valley. I was going to leave the prints I gave them on the doorstep and scram, but they saw me coming. I accepted their invitation for coffee without hesitation.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Our night in Jamaica

The Friday night bartender at Untouchable Bar and Restaurant on Liberty Street in Newburgh. If you love anything Jamaican, I urge you to go the Untouchable for warmth and chat. Friday nights and party nights you go for the music.

Except for the Reggae classics, everything that the proprietor, Leford Robinson, plays is recorded in Jamaica on his trips back home. Then there are the guest DJs from downtown Newburgh with their choices and immense skills in lighting up the guests.

On party nights you are frisked at the door (and why not, let's be safe), and nobody under 23 is admitted. We left at 3:45 a.m., while Veronica, our sound person for the evening, said she would stay, as she thought things were just getting going. We saw that she left around five according to her Facebook post.

I was exhausted by the time we left. We have some pickup shots to do and we are looking forward to that, but we'll try to be home earlier.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

A very nice young couple

The day before Christmas Eve we were asked for a drink with Shelley Boris¹. Her nephew Rhys, aged 17, wanted to meet me because of my connection with Stanley Kubrick. (I had worked as a stills photographer on three of his films.) On the way there, tired from editing and printing, we decided I would say that I was now suffering from senile decay and I could not remember who Stanley Kubrick was.

We did not go through with this as the young man was very polite and asked me few questions. He knew quite as much as I did about Stanley and his films and avoided asking the dreaded question, "What was his creative process?" I was happy to tell a few anecdotes and recommend a book about Stanley by Alexander Walker, the London Evening Standard film critic in the 60s and 70s, called Stanley Kubrick Directs. Altogether a very pleasant evening with Shelley cooking an outstanding spaghetti carbonara

The next day I photographed Rhys and his girlfriend Madison.

1. Shelley Boris, chef, author of Fresh Cooking: a Year of Recipes From the Garrison Institute Kitchen.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Friends on the corner of Dubois and First Street

The girl on the left, sitting with her school friend, lives with her mother and brother at  
Project L.I.F.E., a homeless shelter. Every day after school she babysits. She is waiting to meet the child off the school bus on the corner of Dubois and First Street.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Young girl in pink

We were on Williams Street in Newburgh on Sunday afternoon to film a woman and her boyfriend. At the last minute she was unable to make it, but as often happens, I found another subject. We chatted with the woman's mother who was minding six or seven children; this was one of them.   

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Homeless on Broadway, Newburgh NY

With winter approaching the question of homelessness is acute. We asked this homeless 57 year-old what plans he had;  dreams of warmer places, friends with apartments, more money for rent and...

He is standing on Broadway looking over to the Wherehouse and is lit by the lights from the Ritz Marquee. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Forever, aged seven

We were filming a 27 year-old woman who has five children and expecting her sixth. Caroline nudged me and said, "Don't you think you'd better photograph Catherine's seven-year-old? She's beautiful."

Thanks largely to Patricia at the Regional Economic Community Action Program, Catherine and her five children have a roof over their heads in a motel shelter. They live in one room. Patricia is looking for an apartment for them. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Alissa is homeless because — "My father chose his girl friend over me." She sleeps in a car with her boy friend who does a paper run upstate. She spends the day with her boyfriend's brother, and another friend, both of whom are homeless. Often they are in Newburgh because the people, "who have less are the people who are more willing to help. The people who have money tend to treat you like you are diseased, or you are bothering them."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mother and baby on doorstep with friend

I put my camera on the tripod and pressed record. This did not worry them. I decided as soon as I saw them that the picture and action were the thing. I would not be able to record intelligibly the secrets they were sharing; a microphone on the end of a nine foot pole would have scared them away. I walked away leaving the camera running and talked to my crew and other possible subjects on the other side of the street. The couple were too close to each other, too eager to hear the latest news to see or care they were being filmed. 

I felt they knew the small stubby mic mounted atop the camera was not going to make much sense of their conversation amidst the traffic noise and rapping from car radios. Why move from the comfort of that doorstep; so convenient for cigarettes from the corner store.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Couple with five children

On the left is Tiffany, sitting with her partner Michelle. They have five children between them. Tiffany does not want to give Newburgh a chance. She is worried about how to bring up her children there, "To be good citizens, to be good people, to do the right thing. To go to school, to treat others how they want to be treated, to have positive attitudes. To make something out of life because you only get one." Tiffany would like to leave Newburgh. Michelle wants to stick it out. "If we just have a little bit more faith in us, in the community, we would make it."   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Gathering of friends on Lander Street, Newburgh, NY

A very hot day in September. Friendships, teasing, frayed tempers, thirst and criticism of Newburgh run high.

Man's best friend

Here is Travis and his very dear friend Vegas. Vegas did not like the look of either the camera tripod nor the nine foot microphone boom pole when we were setting up to film. He barked and danced about but Travis gently calmed him down explaining that he was perfectly safe and that we needed the equipment to film. As can be seen from this picture, Vegas understood this and sat still and alert, allowing his master to speak his mind about the plight of Newburgh without interruption.

Father and daughter on Lander Street, Newburgh NY

The bulk of the filming of Newburgh: Beauty and Tragedy is complete. If we are lucky with the weather we shall be able to finish it and start work on the editing in November.

At the end of our interview with Point, we asked if we could see his daughter. He spends a lot of time looking after her and he has a particularly gentle way with her. Amongst the violence and hardship that Point experienced during his childhood, he suffered as much, he said, from his father's absence. He does not want that to happen between him and his daughter.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Two of the fine house on the south end of Lander Street in Newburgh NY. Built in the days when materials and workmanship were of the highest quality, it is not surprising that some, like these two, have survived being unoccupied for forty years, and could still be saved.

South end of Lander Street

This popular and extroverted girl sat with her friends on the stoop of a house on the south end of Lander Street in Newburgh NY. Here stand doomed houses ready for execution by the wrecker's ball.

She had words to say about the terrible food in her school, and the mice that ran free. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Twilight on Broadway

I stop people on street corners always by a corner store so that I have light to illuminate them. I ask them to stand stock still.  The world whirls around them, shadowy figures and tearing cars.