Film or Real Life?

THE TAKE

Sometimes a place is more than just a place; it can be a scene. Even the blankest backdrops, like a parking lot or a sun-baked freeway, can shimmer with cinematic potential. Four photographers showed us the movie moments that they found all over.

Produced by Jolie Ruben and Amanda Webster

Interviews by Raillan Brooks

Jake Michaels

When Jake Michaels began shooting around Los Angeles, he noticed how the backdrop and spontaneous action within the frame combine to tell a story, and how those moments dissolve quickly. “That’s why I think it’s interesting to go back to a place several times,” Michaels said. “You can see life kind of cycling. You see from a static point of view how much life exists in that frame.”

An Rong Xu

An Rong Xu, who made these photographs around Taiwan, is often influenced by the movies of 1990s Hong Kong and the Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing, who created images from “slow gestures that gather into something larger,” Xu said. In other words: Viewers sense a bigger story in the photo and are drawn in by that mystery.

Sarah Van Rij

Sarah van Rij made these pictures around Amsterdam and The Hague. Van Rij declared that filmmakers strongly influence her work — “maybe more than other photographers,” she said. Van Rij, who takes most of her shots outside on the streets, searches for a feeling before snapping the shutter, sometimes inventing her own private back story for a scene.

September Dawn Bottoms

For September Dawn Bottoms, who shot in and around Tulsa, Okla., the answer to what makes a photo cinematic flows from her personal point of view. “I photograph my own life all of the time,” she said. “Every photo is about me and what I’m seeing, I’m just never in it.”

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