Science fiction, and the film world in general, has lost an important figure this week, as cinematographer Gilbert Taylor passed away at his home on the Isle of Wight at the age of 99. Words like “important figure” seem like a gross understatement to describe someone with Taylor’s career. He lensed 70 films, including Star Wars, Flash Gordon, and The Omen, and worked with directors like Alfred Hitchcock (Frenzy), Roman Polanski (Repulsion and more), and Stanley Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb). In 2009, Taylor actually said that Dr. Strangelove is the film he’d most like to be remembered for. You can see why a term like icon or legend might be more appropriate terms to use when talking about Taylor, who also shot A Hard Day’s Night for the Beatles and Richard Lester.
Born in 1914 in Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, England, Taylor began working in the industry in 1929. That’s not a bad run, especially for a man who began his career as a camera assistant and clapper loader at London’s Gainsborough Studios. Though he retired from shooting feature length films in 1994, he continued to work, filming commercials for years after that. During World War II, at the request of Winston Churchill, Taylor, who was serving in the Royal Air Force at the time, filmed the aftermath of the night raids over German. In 2001 the British Society of Cinematographers presented him with their lifetime achievement award.