Cinematographer Tom Richmond Moves From Film to Stills

David J. Carol


Tom Richmond is a very successful Cinematographer/Director of Photography in the film industry. Recently he has started teaching at the very prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. He has also begun spending more time shooting still photos. I met Tom through a mutual friend, photographer Cat Gwynn, and we instantly hit it off telling stories and drinking coffee in a little coffee shop on Broadway in the village. Great guy and an emerging photographer. I present to you, Tom Richmond.

Tom, you're a successful and highly respected cinematographer. What films do you feel demonstrate your best work and are they the favorite films you've made?
Best work.  Little Odessa, Stand and Deliver, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, The Slums of Beverly Hills, A Midnight Clear, Right at Your Door...    

Needless to say, I personally like a lot of the films I've photographed. Not many have had real box-office success. A couple of total non-hit favorites include

The Chateau (with Paul Rudd), Straight to Hell (Joe Strummer, the Pogues, Elvis Costello) and Palindromes, directed by Todd Solondz.

Why now this transition to still photography?
I started out with B&W photography in college. Loved it. After a few years of dabbling, I went to film school in LA, and switched to film. Two reasons I started photographing again were 1) scouting and photographing locations in movie prep and 2) my continuing friendship with Cat Gwynn, a dedicated and excellent still photographer who has encouraged me to the maximum. Cat and I have our own unofficial company; Tomcat -

For the past few years, my work schedule as a freelance cinematographer has slowed down, along with the economy. I have more time for photography. I have also recently transitioned my residence from LA to primarily NYC. I find that New York, and the Northeast provide a much richer, denser, and varied environment to explore; seasons, architecture, geography, people outside their cars and homes.
How is your approach to still photography different then your approach to making films?
For me, there are 2 major differences in my approach to photography vs. cinematography. The first is that when you shoot a film, you coordinate with a group of other people, usually a large group. There's almost no spontaneity. Creative vision/ action is inextricably tied to communication and leadership skills.

Still photography (at least non-commercial ) offers me a total release and escape from these stigma. I can shoot whatever I want, with no one's approval. Nobody has to like or agree with what I do, and major pre-production is gloriously unnecessary.

The second major difference is a need in movies for lighting continuity and control. In a photograph, half the time I see a moment of magical light, and I just shoot! Or I remember it and go back another day...on my own schedule!

In filmmaking, editing demands that you find a lighting 'look', and then must maintain it for a series of shots. I've been studying lighting for 25 years at least, and still feel that there are a million more technical things to learn. Also, designing a 'look' is obviously very different than discovering light in a real situation.

At the moment, I'm very impressed with how 'Game of Thrones' has managed to provide visually rich and sparkling looks and maintain them throughout a scene.

OK, I'm gonna put you on the spot here. Who are your 5 favorite photographers and your 5 favorite movie directors?
Aarrrggghhh! Super hard. I think I do have favorite photographers, tho' I feel somewhat illiterate every time someone puts a new reference on Facebook.

With films, I usually qualify by saying that I have favorite films rather than directors.  But...here goes photography: Emmet Gowin, William Eggleston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Davidson & Ray K. Metzker (and Joel Meyorwitz !) film directors: Bernard Bertolucci, Jacques Tati, Michael Haneke, Robert Altman, Woody Allen.  and many others.

Who were the nicest actors you have worked with?

Nicest actors. There are a lot actually. Alan Arkin, Kat Denning, Michael Cera, Marissa Tomei, Liam Neeson, Ethan Hawke, Robert Downey Jr....more

Where do you want your still photography to be in 5 years?
I hope to create a portfolio of material from which to publish a book (or 2), and to show my work in a gallery in NYC, LA, Chicago, or San Francisco. &/or Paris! What I like about a photography book is that it creates the opportunity to put pictures together to create a single experience, and the opportunity to re-view pictures and possibly associate them in a different way.

Thanks Tom and good luck with everything!



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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