Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller has given us some of the most transcendent images ever captured on-screen. Since beginning his career in the late sixties, he has lensed a wealth of indelible moments—from Harry Dean Stanton wandering alone through the vast Southwestern desert in Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas to the jailbirds of Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law on their odyssey through the lush Louisiana bayou. This summer, Müller’s inimitable career is being honored with a retrospective at the Eye museum in Amsterdam. Master of Light—Robby Müller, which runs through September 4, includes screenings of films Müller shot (for Wenders and Jarmsuch, as well as Lars von Trier, Steve McQueen, and others), alongside an exhibition of his personal archives, featuring home movies, thousands of Polaroid photographs, letters and other writing, and interview footage (including an program Müller did for our release of Down by Law).
In a new online feature about the exhibit for The New York Times, writer Nina Siegal interviews longtime collaborators of the beloved cinematographer, along with Eye’s director of exhibitions, Jaap Guldemond, and Müller’s wife, Andrea. Noting Müller’s affinity for close collaboration, Guldemond says that Müller “was really looking for soul mates, as he calls them . . . All the different directors he worked with were people with whom he felt at ease, people he liked, and with [whom] he could do what he wanted to do.” Jarmusch, one of those soul mates, says that Müller, who considered himself a kind of painter, taught the director about the relationship between color and emotions. “Robby would teach me things like, it says in the script that it’s a sunny day, but then on the day of the shoot it would be cloudy and about to rain,” Jarmusch says. “Most people would just say, OK, let’s not shoot today. Robby would always say, let’s think, maybe the clouds and the rain is better, let’s not be closed off, let’s be open to what we might do.”
“There’s a certain kind of magic or poetry to whatever he shoots,” says McQueen, whose installation Carib’s Leap was shot by Müller. “I compare him to a blues musician in a way. He plays just a few chords and he conveys what he needs to convey.”