Robby Müller, a Dutch cinematographer best known for his collaborations with the film directors Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch and Lars von Trier, is famed for his contribution to both mainstream cinematic productions and the world independent film.
Müller, who is widely celebrated for his use of natural light and minimalist imagery, began his career in cinema with his work on Wenders’ first feature film Summer in the City dated in 1970. From there, the two creatives again collaborated on iconic films such as the 1984 effort Paris, Texas and, before that 1977 film The American Friend.
Having suffered from vascular dementia for several years prior to his death, Müller’s innovative style and inspired use of light left him to be described as having “a permanent influence on the film language overall,” by the Netherlands Society of Cinematographers.
“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,” filmmaker Jim Jarmusch once said of Müller. “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.”
Such is the impact of his artistic vision, Müller became the subject of journalist Claire Pijman prior to his death. Pijman had been working on the documentary Living the Light — Robby Müller and finished shortly before he passed away. The film offers an unparalleled insight into Müller’s life, his view of art and the opinions of those closes to him.
It is well known that Müller would often take Polaroid photographs during moments in between his work on set and, as such, his work tended to document his downtime. Subjects such as hotel rooms, landscapes and more, Müller stuck true to his desire to study the light in almost the situations he found himself in. In 1974, the first fully automatic instant camera was released by Polaroid, the SX-70 and, in turn, it was this camera that became crucial to the creation of Wenders’ film Alice in the Cities. Due to the results of his work, Müller continued to take Polaroid pictures ever since that moment.
“There’s a certain kind of magic or poetry to whatever he shoots,” the iconic Steve McQueen once said of 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.”
Prior to his passing, a small-format, two-volume set of books were published in honour of his work. One book is themed Exterior, the other is themed Interior and were reprinted in 2018 along with a booklet, Living The Light: A Visual Essay which was created by Müller himself.
Taking a peek inside the book, Far Out explores some of the Polaroid’s taken by the Master of Light.