Jeff Bridges might be one of the most recognisable actors to grace cinema screens, but it turns out that for the past 35 years he’s been a documentary photographer too, prolifically capturing his experiences on film sets. What began as a humble gesture – making picture books to give to the cast and crew that he worked with on films – has evolved into a catalogue of compelling portraits that pull back the curtain on the world of cinema.
Over 15 years since he first revealed his personal collection of photographs to the public, Bridges is releasing a new photo book, Pictures Volume 2, which features photographic highlights of his on-set moments.
The photographs are characterised by a distinctive wide frame thanks to his camera of choice, a 35mm Widelux, which was first gifted to him by his wife for their wedding. Not only does the wide pan let more detail into the frame, but also – as Bridges points out – it resembles the image ratio typically used in filmmaking.
According to Bridges in the book’s introduction, the Widelux operates with a slit rather than a traditional shutter, panning as it exposes the film and allowing for a fish eye result – “almost as if the camera has peripheral vision”. He occasionally manipulates this feature to create a double exposure effect – a method inspired by an experience in high school, where the kids worked out that if they ran quickly enough, they could “beat the panning lens and be in the picture twice.”
Rather than disobedient school children, Bridges tried it out on George Clooney, nose plastered, while working on The Men Who Stare At Goats, as well as Jodelle Ferland on the set of Tideland. The result is a jovial take on tragedy and comedy theatre masks, each expression separated by a smudge of motion blur.
With a filmography as extensive as his, it should come as no surprise that Bridges knows a thing or two about composition and framing. Whether in his fly-on-the-wall photo of Tobey Maguire perched atop Seabiscuit, or when he mirrors the director’s ground level close-up in Scenes of a Crime, the book demonstrates his eye for a powerful image.
Alongside the bold scenes and big stars, some of the photos offer a more personal impression, such as the pensive shot of Loyd Catlett, a close friend who’s starred as his double for over 45 years. Bridges even appears himself in an early iteration of a selfie while on the set of the Coen Brothers’ 2010 True Grit remake. Elsewhere, he captures a surprisingly tender moment as a young Jack Nation lies across a tabletop on the set of Crazy Heart, the 2009 drama that earned Bridges an Oscar.
Where many behind-the-scenes stills and documentaries often feel distant, Bridges catches these unseen moments with a level of closeness and familiarity afforded by being an actor himself. Pictures Volume 2 gives a remarkably intimate look at life on set, made all the better by the idea of Jeff Bridges pottering around with a camera, waiting to capture the curiosities that catch his eye.
Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume 2 is published by powerHouse Books on 15 October; powerhousebooks.com