Todd Haynes film CAROL and Ruth Orkin’s influence

carol3Photo by Ruth Orkin

NEW STATESMAN: Behind Carol: The photographers who influenced Todd Haynes Award-winning film 11/27/15

The book collected a selection of 1950s photojournalism that revealed a “distressed, dirty, sagging city” that jarred with their own romanticised notions of New York at the time. Aptly for a film that prioritises female perspectives, many of these photographers were women: Ruth Orkin, Helen Levitt, Esther Bubley and Vivian Maier were all major influences for the team behind Carol. Haynes added that this was where the film developed its “soiled colour palette”.


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Instead, he found inspiration in an obscure 1956 docudrama called Lovers and Lollipops, directed by Ruth Orkin and Morris Engle. It was about a single mother, and was shot on location in New York. “Everything about the movie was useful because it was such a slice of life of the time,” says Haynes. “It wasn’t how women behave today, in a post 60s or 70s Patti Smith world. It was almost something you would see in your grandmother. It was a lost language of femininity.”


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Preproduction began in January 2014, with Nagy overseeing minor script rewrites as the director amassed an overstuffed “look book” to inspire his production team (he was drawn to archival images by street photographers of the era like Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt and Ruth Orkin).

Ed Lachman, ASC, taps Super 16 for Todd Haynes period melodrama CAROL

Lachman reveals that Therese’s early photos were in fact shot in the 1960s by photographer Brian Blauser, and her later work was shot byCarol’s set photographer, Wilson Webb. The filmmakers wanted Therese’s photos to share the same sensitivity and gritty realism found in the work of mid-20th century female photographers like Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, Ruth Orkin, Esther Bubley, Helen Levitt and Vivian Maier. Haynes wrote to Lachman, “Women played a much more relevant, central role in depicting and documenting those times, but it also wavered between art photography — like many of their careers did — and photojournalism. And so it was both artistic and aestheticized …. The soft, soiled look of period photography (rather than its cinema) should both soften and soil the emotional content of the story.”

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