Thursday, August 7, 2014


Katrin Cartlidge, Toronto, Sept. 1996

THERE AREN'T A LOT OF PEOPLE I'VE BEEN REALLY EXCITED TO PHOTOGRAPH. Katrin Cartlidge was one of them. Shot during my annual portrait blowout at the Toronto International Film Festival, I'm guessing the Hotel Intercontinental on Bloor, where I simply found the place where the window light starts to take on the flat, diffuse quality of north light.

Taken with a Rolleiflex on a tripod with Ilford black and white film - the simple formula that I used for most of the '90s. She was probably in town doing press for Career Girls, her best film in my opinion, and certainly my favorite film by Mike Leigh. I first saw Cartlidge in Leigh's Naked two or three years earlier, a film whose mood felt disturbingly too much like my life at the time. (David Thewlis, the film's star, admitted that was actually a pretty disturbing reaction when I photographed him.)

Shot on assignment for NOW magazine, where I was teamed up with Ingrid, always my favorite writer to work with. I must have managed to get into a press screening for Career Girls before I took this portrait because I remember Cartlidge being taken aback at how stoked Ingrid and I were about the film and about meeting her in general.

Cartlidge was an unusually intelligent actor, who shone when given room to work and was generally wasted when doing small roles in films like From Hell, which was unfortunately her last picture. She died the year after it came out, of an infection that came from an adrenal tumour, a sudden death at just 41 that shocked and depressed me when I read the news.

"The hardest thing of all is to face the unbearable truth that Katrin Cartlidge will never again make her magical contribution to my films," Mike Leigh wrote in a tribute after she died. "This devastating fact leaves me very sad indeed." I don't imagine that an actor like Cartlidge, had she lived, would have prevented movies from being any worse than they are today, but like the best performer, she might have improved them for at least the few moments when she was onscreen. 

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