Keith Hamshere, on-set photographer, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); stills photographer, Barry Lyndon (1975)
What was it like taking a photo of Kubrick?
He was always conscious of people with cameras around their neck. And it wasn’t because he didn’t want you to take pictures, it was because he found them distracting. He’d come up to me, with a camera around my neck, and say, “Oh, hi Keith! What have you got on there? How do you like that lens? Is that great? Which one is that?” and he’d get into details. You really didn’t want to take a picture of Stanley, because you felt you were going to distract him if you weren’t careful.
Kubrick himself started his career as a photographer for Look magazine in the 1940s. Do you think the love he had for taking photos stayed with him?
Yeah. I remember he always carried a little Minox camera around with him. He always had this love for photography. There’s not a lot of difference between all the different types of photography, whether it’s cinematography or whether it’s still photography: all the ingredients and the love and the desire to get an image is there, no matter what the format is that you’re shooting. I don’t think he ever left his roots.
What did you learn from him while you were on set?
I think working with Stanley made everyone realise his or her potential and that there was no end to what you could do if you tried hard. You could do whatever you wanted to do once you got his confidence, to achieve something different and achieve something new, which is what his goal would be. So he’d always give you that rein. That was the great thing about a master, which he was. He’d realise what you had in you and would push your potential to see what he could get out of you to achieve his goal.
Kubrick was known for being a serious man. Did he ever lighten up and have a laugh?
He was a very serious man, but once you’d got his confidence, you became part of his team, and you could always make him smile. He always had a good sense of humour. There was never a time when I felt was oppressed by anything.
Any there any funny stories about him you can remember?
I was walking out of his office by MGM Tower with him, and he had this little Scottie dog, and he had a ball in his hand, and he was playing fetch as we walked along MGM going to the soundstages. And I said to Stanley, “That’s what I need”. He said, “What’s that Keith?” and I said, “Exercise.” So he threw the ball, and said, “Keith, fetch!” It’s a stupid story. But that shows you the sense of humour.