Cinematography isn’t only about light, composition, color, movement and post-production magic.  It also involves a variety of internal processes that are emotional, abstract and difficult to define.  Today, I’m venturing into that realm.  Let’s see what bubbles up.

            Timothy Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and one-time Harvard professor who is best remembered for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs, most notably LSD during the 1960’s.  Among many outlandish pronouncements made during his public life, the most lasting one has been, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”  While President Richard Nixon once referred to him as “the most dangerous man in America,” to my grade school eyes he appeared to be something of a kook, a little scary perhaps, but not a serious threat.  I haven’t thought of him much since then and when I have, my assessment remained the same.

            Nonetheless, Leary did have moments of lucidity.  Consider the following statement and the unusual yet thoroughly valid ways in which it might apply to a cinematographer’s mindset.

            “Admit it.  You aren’t like them.  You’re not even close.  You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes.  But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the normal people as they go about their automatic existences.  For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh,” you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”  Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator.  But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing?  Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger. Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle.  Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence.  Trust your instincts.  Do the unexpected.  Find the others.”

            I’ll leave it to you for interpretation…but there’s no doubt more to what Leary said than at first meets the eye!



  1. I identify with his sentiment.
    I’ve always been an observer.
    Some times when I’ve tried to voice these feelings, people have automatically thought that I was saying that I thought that I was “better” than everyone else. Definitely not, just different. Just because I observe, it doesn’t mean that I judge.
    More like the inspiration for Spock in Star Trek, the other, the outsider.
    I have encountered many “others” along the way, sometimes with bad first impressions but after taking the chance and opening the door it has allowed me to meet some very intriguing and marvelous individuals.
    Great thoughts, thanks!
    I always look forward to the notification that you’ve posted a new blog.

  2. Thank you, Mark! This is admittedly a bit of an odd subject but I thought it held relevance for all of us.

  3. Richard, I enjoyed the unexpected chance meeting at the
    Reel Inn last year! Has opened my eyes to cinematography.
    Thanks for taking the time to explain your work.
    I believe you were with your friend Barry?

  4. Ken – I’m very pleased to have met you as well! You’ve been an amazingly attentive reader of this blog and I thank you for that; I sincerely hope we meet up again sometime soon. And for the record, the day we met I was about to have lunch with my pal Bob Hoffman, a great guy who had a long career at Technicolor.

  5. Thank you, Ken…it was a pleasure seeing you as well and I hope we meet up again soon! For the record, the day we met I was about to have lunch with my good pal Bob Hoffman. He had a long career at Technicolor and is truly one of the great figures in Hollywood.

  6. Hello Richard,
    Your concepts and ideas that you discuss on Normal Exposure fuel my imagination. Your approach opens those doors to our minds. I really get into, reflect on the most recent comment on Leary.

    Creative people move through life in a bit of a shifted sense of step or harmony, syncopated thinking.
    I always thought I was weird as a youth, but cinematography allowed me to use that syncopated thinking to look at the world in a different way. It gave me a purpose and passion in my life.

    Thank you for reminding me to stay in that shifted phase and not live a ordinary life.
    I hope that you are having a good shoot on your pilot Richard. Here’s to many more years of Inspiration, and Creativity.

  7. Thank you, Karl! I hope all is well and that you’re getting to where you want to be…

  8. I love this post, it resonates with me.
    It took me years to realize that what I thought was a major handicap, could be seen as an advantage in a visual field. That makes me not like them, so I try to do something different than them.
    I believe that we all carry our vision of the world, our weltanschauung, our piece of the puzzle, our story. So, none of us is “like them”, which is what makes us different from each other and unique.
    That’s the beauty of the existence.
    The last part of the quote reminds me my high school philosophy teacher, one of the best and most fascinating woman I’ve ever met; she had a poker face, a psycho vibe, a plastic smile, magnetic eyes and the best wardrobe Milena Canonero could have ever designed.
    The quote she wrote me one was from writer and philosopher Fernando Pessoa’s “The Book of Disquiet”
    I’m translating by memory, by Pessoa said that everything that has been ours, even if only by accident of coexistence or vision, precisely because it has been ours, becomes ourselves.
    Thank you for this post, Richard!

  9. Thank you, Luigi! There’s a lot more going on inside all of us than meets the eye…

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