My Hour With “The Dude”

by Charys Schuler.

 

Every time the box with the next issue of SilvergrainClassics arrives at my door, it’s a thrill. I will have already seen all the individual articles, and also checked all the .pdf documents that are sent over by our fantastic graphic designer, Michael, but seeing the printed journal is another thing entirely. Portfolios that I fell in love with on an lcd screen are even more impressive when I hold them in my hand, and since I love reading printed material, each text seems even more fun when I can discover it while turning a page.

All that having been said, I have to admit that opening up the box with the fresh copies of SGC Issue 8 was a special thrill. One of my childhood heartthrobs, Jeff Bridges, is on the cover. And inside is the article I wrote after speaking with him myself for an uninterrupted hour.

Jeff was very generous and open with both his time and his thoughts, and had even taken the time to look at my questions in advance and think through his answers. Considering the number of interviews he gives per year, I was impressed, and touched, by his sense of responsibility to a relatively small publication like ours.

 

 

But from my experience and what I heard from his team, Jeff really does invest himself in everything he does. That integrity was a thread that wove itself through all of his answers, whether he was talking about the charitable causes he supports or his genuine love for the Widelux.

Jeff’s panoramic photography is the work of an artist, although he prefers not to think of himself that way. It is not based in immaculate technique and waiting for any exact, perfect moment; he says that he thinks each moment is perfect, and the unpredictability of the Widelux frame is an element he cherishes.

Rather than searching for something in particular, Jeff keeps himself open to the world around him, experiencing the moment, letting impressions take him by surprise. There is a reason that his portrayal of “The Dude” in the cult classic The Big Lebowski has become a cultural icon. I believe that we as viewers sense an authenticity in the character that is based in his own view of the world, and that view makes its way into his photography. I don’t want to give away all the choice tidbits from my article, but I can tell you that Jeff is so comfortable with being identified with “The Dude” that his grandchildren call him “Dudie.”

But coming back to his photography, Jeff uses his Widelux in unusual ways. Instead of photographing large land- or cityscapes, he prefers to get in close to his subjects. He loves to play with the fact that a swing lens camera is, to him, a combination of moving and still photography because the world is subtly different when the panning starts than it is when the exposure is done. His series of double portraits in the “tragedia/comedia” style are a great example of how he uses this phenomena creatively; the same person is caught twice in one exposure.

I could have gotten most of this information with a few hours of searching on the internet. What was really interesting was trying to find questions that he hadn’t answered yet. That was certainly a challenge! But in the end, I was very happy with the chance to chat with Jeff, and by the end of our hour, I felt as though I had gotten a better idea about the person behind the movie characters and photos, and also understood more about the impulses behind his wonderful panoramic photos.

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