Death of Cinematographer Edmond Richard, AFC

La Lettre AFC n°289

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We were saddened to learn of the death of Cinematographer Edmond Richard, AFC, which occurred in Paris on 5 June 2018 at the age of 91. Having shot over fifty films, Edmond Richard shared the visual universes of directors as varied as Marcel Carné, René Clément, Henri Verneuil, Jean Girault, Guy Casaril, Sébastien Japrisot, Robert Hossein, Gérad Pirès, and Orson Welles, Luis Buñuel and Jean-Pierre Mocky, whose faithful partner he was on over twenty films.

Born on 6 January 1927 in Paris, Edmond Richard studied mathematics and obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering before enrolling in the Etablissements André Debrie in the Rue Saint-Maur in Paris in 1947. There, he was offered the opportunity to set up a research laboratory on fluids and sensitometry. He began to work for André Coutant in 1951 and worked with him on the design of the Caméflex, Éclair’s emblematic camera. Together, they perfected the Sensitoflex, an early precursor of the spotmeter.
During the late 1950s — early 1960s, under coproduction agreements, he worked in Zagreb as a special effects operator and technical and artistic advisor for colour. There, in 1961, he met Orson Welles, who was scouting locations in Yugoslavia for The Trial. Welles offered Richard the job as director of photography on that film, giving him his first opportunity to begin his career as the cinematographer we know him as.

Amongst other domains of innovation and research that Edmond was both skilled in and passionate about, it is he who created the line of professional makeup products known as Visiora, launched by Christian Dior in October 1987 ; he also perfected the Super Split camera format in the 1980s - using 35mm film on two perfs to create an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which was then blown-up onto 35mm four perfs in an optical printer (a sort of Super16 on 35mm filmstock). He also participated in experiments with the precursor of HDTV in France, in the late 1980s, with a camera developed by Thomson.

Amongst his other awards, he was made an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1979 and won the César for Best Cinematography in 1983 for his work on Robert Hossein’s Les Misérables. In 2010, he was awarded the Prix Henri-Langlois by the Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma de Patrimoine in Vincennes.

Edmond Richard recevant le Prix Henri Langlois, aux Rencontres du cinéma de patrimoine de Vincennes, en 2012
Edmond Richard recevant le Prix Henri Langlois, aux Rencontres du cinéma de patrimoine de Vincennes, en 2012

Edmond was President of the Commission Prise de vues and Vice-President of the Commission supérieure technique de l’image et du son (CST), as well as an active member of the “Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers” (SMPTE).
In 1990, he was one of the founding members of the AFC. He was an original member of its board of directors in 1994 and was one of the Association’s Vice Presidents from 1991 to 1993.

The cinematographers of the AFC offer his family - his son Patrick, his daughter Dominique, his granddaughter and his great grandchildren - their very sincere condolences.

We shall soon publish articles by members’ in memory of the man that he was and of his work.