Photography capturing candid scenes of city life and major motion pictures are essentially the same thing, according to Steven Poster. The cinematographer should know, having worked on cinematic touchstones like “Blade Runner,” “Donnie Darko” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
“The act of making a photograph, as opposed to the art of shooting a movie, is all part of the same emotional content for me,” Poster said. “My compositional style and sense of light carries over, and that is part of why I say that the two mediums are the same to me. My eye is my eye, and that doesn’t change from still photography to film.”
A still photographer since he was 10, Poster specializes in street photography. A collection of his work opens Friday at Mainsite Contemporary Art in Norman. He will attend the opening, as well as a screening of “Donnie Darko” following.
His impressive career path started when he decided at 12 that photography would be his life’s work, in whatever form. Two years later, a neighbor would steer him toward Hollywood, when Poster noted the man had a light meter hanging around his neck.
The neighbor, a newsreel cameraman, became Poster’s mentor.
“The day I met him, I thought he was the coolest person I’d ever met and I decided I wanted to become him, and that’s what began my career as a motion picture cameraman,” Poster said. “I didn’t know much as a young boy, but I knew that I wanted to emulate him.”
He focuses on street scenes because of the stories inherent in people’s faces and their interactions. As a storyteller, he is drawn toward images that are emotionally engaging and prefers producing work that has a strong communal feel.
Carrying a camera wherever he goes allows him to capture communities around the globe. He said his style rarely involves more than a moment’s setup and often is done without subjects aware of his camera.
“There are times when they see me take their picture, and it is either a pleasant exchange or a very awkward moment. I’ve certainly had people come after me,” Poster said with a laugh. “Recently, I had a woman in New York get very hostile and start screaming at me. It was a little bit nerve-wracking.”
He likes the anonymity of taking a picture of someone who will never know about his camera, never know that a moment of their life had been captured and became art. But even after five decades, not every great scene makes a great image.
“It’s a percentage game,” Poster said. “There are times times that it does work and times that it doesn’t work. But when it does, it is magic.”