Friday, June 2, 2017

Katrin Cartlidge

Katrin Cartlidge, Toronto, Sept. 1996

I STILL FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT, SIX YEARS AFTER I TOOK THIS PHOTO, KATRIN CARTLIDGE WOULD BE GONE. I'd first seen Cartlidge in Mike Leigh's Naked - a film I identified with far more than was probably healthy - and immediately recognized the talent that Leigh doubtless had. She was, in 1996, at the beginning of what I was sure would be a remarkable career.

I've written about this shoot with Katrin Cartlidge before, when I found a print of one of these photos in my files, early on in this blog. I wrote that she was in Toronto doing publicity for Leigh's Career Girls, which can't have been quite possible because the film didn't come out for another year. (My guess now is that she was at the festival for Lars Von Trier's Breaking The Waves.) It was my favorite role of hers, and my favorite film of Leigh's, and since movies were a big part of my life back then, I'd obviously seen her potential and become a fan even before then.

Katrin Cartlidge, Toronto, Sept. 1996

Cartlidge's death was a real loss; I'd even call it a tragedy. Her last film role was, unfortunately, little more than a cameo in a not particularly memorable adaptation of an Alan Moore comic starring Johnny Depp. It was the sort of thing an agent tells you to do for the "profile," but she had better taste than that, and between TV and the movies was doing three or even four roles a year, making interesting choices all the time.

I'm sure that her death was a big loss for Mike Leigh. It wasn't until he discovered Sally Hawkins that he'd be able to feature a younger actress with the intensity of Cartlidge in his films. "She took to the improvisation and character work instantly, easily and with extraordinary commitment and imagination," he said after she died. "I am in no doubt that we have lost not only one of our greatest actors but also one of the most interesting new directors of the future."

Katrin Cartlidge, Toronto, Sept. 1996

I did the shoot, I'm sure, in a room at the Hotel Intercontinental on Bloor Street. I started by taking simple head shots in the light that came through the hotel's relatively small windows, but then asked Cartlidge if she'd sit on the bed for another roll. She worried aloud that I was trying to get her to do something a bit too cheesecake, and protested to Ingrid, the writer, and I that it really wasn't her image at all.

We both disagreed and said that she shouldn't worry about that sort of thing, and that we thought she looked great. My own motivation for the shots was more personal, and a bit more calculated - I rarely took full body shots of subjects, and worried that my portraits concentrated too much on faces. (I wanted to be a bit more August Sander than Irving Penn.) I wanted to get a shot that captured the way a person stood or sat, and reflected either the ease or discomfort that posing for a camera provoked. Cartlidge managed a bit of both, looking both at home in her skin and a bit wary of what the camera was seeing; it was a perfect character actor's reaction.

Katrin Cartlidge died in London on Sept. 7, 2002.

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