Joseph August worked as cinematographer on quite a few memorable films, including Gunga Din (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), The Devil & Daniel Webster (1941), and Portrait of Jennie (1948). Gunga Din was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography at the time of its release, and Portrait of Jennie was nominated for Best B & W Cinematography in 1949, winning an Award for Best Visual Effects that year. Portrait of Jennie was August's last film, with Lee Garmes finishing the project at the untimely occurrence of August's death. Joseph Cotten, who played the part of main character Eben Adams in the film, spoke of August as "brilliant...incomparable...our master of ethereal light."
To Capture the Beauty of Central Park
Vintage equipment was used to capture the effect of warm, radiant light surrounding Jennie in the Central Park scenes. August paints a lovely portrait in vintage black & white, with those picturesque park benches, quaint antique lamp-posts, curving pathways, the distant atmosphere of the pond, the manifold hedges of trees and thousands of darkly mysterious branches. One imagines that these forests of branches might resemble the expanse and patterns of time, one set of shapes leading to another and expanding at new and different angles. The Winter scenes and the ice-skating scenes similarly strike resonant chords, with the awesome skyline of New York City towering over some of the backdrops like palatial castles and European chateaus.
A Vast Refuge in the Midst of Urban America
The history of Central Park is one that reaches back to its inception in the year 1857. In 1858 Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to expand and improve the park. While the Park in 1857 encompassed 778 acres, today it encompasses 840 acres including a pond, a lake, a reservoir, numerous wooded areas, picnic groves and open fields for play or athletics.
A Document of A Rare Time & Place
One of the most beguiling pleasures of watching Portrait of Jennie is this remarkable canvas of light & shadow so eminently captured by the gifted cinematographer Joseph August. What the artist manages to preserve transcends decades of time, offering indelible scenes recorded for the impressionable viewer.