Joseph Walker

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JosephWalker-SMJoseph Walker filming flight sequences for Shipman's The Girl From God's Country (1921). (Nell Shipman Archives, Boise State University.)

In 1917 Walker had filmed a one-reel motion picture for the American Red Cross; Shipman saw it and was impressed with the camerawork. She asked him and the film's credited director (Bert Van Tuyle, soon to become her lover and company's manager for six years) to her Glendale home for an interview.

Walker writes about the meeting in The Light on Her Face:

"Nell Shipman was the true prototype of an outdoors woman. Handsome, well-proportioned and tall, with melting brown eyes and a thick mass of long dark hair coiled around her head, she knew exactly what she wanted; but at the same time she was warmly feminine."

"I just made a picture for Vitagraph," she told us, "and the picture is doing well but I'm not happy working with Vitagraph. I'm leaving them to form my own company. I plan to make outdoor pictures, on real locations. No more studios with their fake sets."

She appraised me. 'I want you to make a test of me, only this is not to be--' she held up a warning finger--'like a studio test. I want this shot outdoors in bright sunlight with natural settings. The question is, can you make me look good under those conditions?'

I had known at first glance she'd photograph well. Strong vitality, such as hers, always comes through on film ..."

Among many distinctions, Walker became known during his 24 years at Columbia Studios as a "glamour photographer" who could photograph actress in their most flattering light (thus, the title of his autobiography). He was an inventor, as well as a photographer, and was responsible for creating a zoom lens and a special effects compositing system that was used in hundreds of films. In 1982 he received the first Oscar for Scientific and Technical Achievement.


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