Capturing Film's Unseen Moments: An Interview with Kim Gottlieb-Walker
Kim Gottlieb-Walker has worked with many titans of film like John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, and Clint Eastwood. Shooting not only for film and television, she is responsible for many of the iconic photos of Bob Marley that we have today. She also honorably represents the Cinematographer’s Guild on their National Executive Board. Kim was gracious enough to let me interview her about her decades of experience.
You've worked on several of John Carpenter's films. Can you tell us what that experience was like from film to film working with the same director?
John was a dream to work with…he values every member of his crew and treats everyone with kindness and respect and appreciation for their contributions to making his vision for his films a reality. He was particularly wonderful for me to work with because he understood the value of the stills for promoting and generating interest in his films, so he always made sure I could get my shot. On "Halloween", I didn't have blimps for my cameras yet, so he'd have the actors reenact key moments for me after he'd gotten his shots. A VERY rare thing!
Are you on set most of the filming or only for select times?
I was there 100% of the time. You never know when something worth shooting will happen on or off the set, so the still photographer needs to be there the whole time and be alert for opportunities.
Notably for horror fans you worked on "Halloween" and "Halloween 2". Are you a fan of horror?
I'm actually not a big horror fan myself…I do enjoy well crafted movies in any genre…but slasher gore is not my favorite. Of course, in "Halloween", there was no blood at all!
What's the process like for you finding those shots to capture during filming? What kind of inspiration do you get?
The first objective is to capture the essence of each scene…to get shots that represent the look and feel of the project…but also portraits, interactions between the actors and the director…it's about documenting the entire process. Often the actors would strike a pose on the side of the set if the light was good…and even just joking around on the set made for great shots. Dean Cundey, our cinematographer and Mark Walthour, our gaffer, made great atmospheric lighting, so all I had to do was capture what they created.
I had the pleasure of attending LA Times film festival featuring John Carpenter's "Halloween". They showed your photos from your time on set during the filming. You did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of life on set. Can you tell us more in detail?
It was always truly FUN. "Halloween" was an independent film made on a shoestring budget with no studios to dictate anything…so it was like a family working together on a great project. We all really enjoyed each other's company, which made it easy.
Can you tell us more about your journey as a photographer?
I started by shooting interviews and music concerts for the underground press in the late 60s and met my husband over the formation of Music World Magazine in 1972. We became a team - he wrote, I shot. By the end of 73, we were married, had our first child…and then he became director of publicity for Island Records in the USA in charge of introducing Bob Marley and Reggae to the US public…so I spent a few years shooting a LOT of reggae both in L.SA. and in Jamaica which resulted in the first coffee table photo book of my work "Bob Marley and the Golden Age of Reggae" which just went into it's second edition. Then I shot a little low budget film that was so bad it wasn't even released, but the script supervisor on it was Debra Hill, who called me when she was producing Halloween to ask me to shoot the stills for it…and I became a part of John and Debra's team for several years. "Escape from New York" got me into the union and I've represented still photographers on the national executive board of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) for over 2 decades.
Do you have any advice for those looking to pursue the same path you did?
With the advent of digital photography, it's much easier now to keep copies of everything you shoot (which I recommend!) and be sure to label everything you shoot with who they are and where and when, because it's very difficult to remember those details 40 years later!
Lastly, what would you say was your most impacting experience during your career?
There have been so many high points and wonderful experiences. Shooting portraits of Jimi Hendrix at age 20, shooting the cover of High Times Magazine with Bob Marley (one of the few times he enjoyed posing), working on "Halloween", getting into the union. Shooting "Cheers" for 9 years and "Family Ties" for 5, as well as the pilots for "Star Trek Next Generation" and "Deep Space 9". The publication of my first book…every experience was memorable! Now I'm woking on a photo book about the films I worked on with John and Debra ("Halloween", "The Fog", "Christine", "Escape from New York" and "Halloween 2"). I'm preparing for my first USA solo gallery show in Jan 2014 at the KM Gallery on La Cienega. You can see a sampling of shots from throughout my career at my website Lenswoman