Film photographer Roger Deakins’ credits include everything from Barton Fink and The Shawshank Redemption for the upcoming Sam Mendes movie The Empire of Light. But one of his first jobs behind the camera was seeing Deakins’ lens trained on a herd of sheep. The assignment was to document life in England’s rural North Devon – from domestic animals to the local carnival – for the Beaford Arts Center in the early 1970s.
“It’s funny, really. I do not think I was very good at that job,” says the two-time Oscar winner with a laugh. “My photographs are a bit whimsical – they are not really historical.”
Now these pictures can be seen in Deakins’ first book, Biveje (Damiani, $ 55), released November 2nd. It contains about five decades of black-and-white images from the DP’s personal collection, which includes his travels across New Zealand and Rapa Nui and his time on filming, where he has taken images such as Bond’s classic Aston Martin during filming. Ascension or the lonely tree that would appear at the end of 1917. Deakins, 72, spoke with THR about publishing his personal photographs.
What did you record when you started shooting?
I bought a used Pentax and I did not have the large selection of lenses. In fact, I think I had two and I dropped one of them one day. And when I worked for this art center, I said, “I need a darkroom.” The only place I could [use] was a toilet. I did all my development and printing, some of not so good quality. (Laughs.)
What has it been like to look back on the pictures of a lifetime?
We’ve made this podcast [Team Deakins] over the last six months and we’ve talked to a couple of good still photographers. And they say they come back depressed when they have not taken a picture that day. But when they find something and they take a picture, they come back and feel a little high. That’s exactly how I feel about it. If I spend a day or a week and I just get a picture that I love, it really gives me a boost. So through the archives of photos, I remember taking every single photograph, even way back in the 1970s.
What was the idea behind making a book?
I’m very old-fashioned. I like to see pictures on my laptop, but on the other hand, I would rather have a book with photographs standing there. So it’s really wonderful to see it happen. And it’s also nice to know that these are all the pictures I’ve taken before. And now I can start again.
Has your photography influenced your filmography?
There are obviously connections, but I can see [photography] a lot [as] a relaxation. In one movie, I work with so many people. It can be dozens or 100. When I’m just wandering around with my camera, it’s just me – alone.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the October 27 issue of the Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.