David Myers (cinematographer)

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David Myers (May 8, 1914, Auburn, New York–August 26, 2004, Mill Valley, California, USA) was an American photographer and cinematographer noted for his documentaries on popular music and musicians.


Myers was born on May 8, 1914, in Auburn, New York. When he was 15, the New York Times paid him $15 for a shot of a fire in Greenwich, and after being further inspired by photographer Walker Evans' work at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1938, David also worked for the Farm Security Administration[1][2] while studying at Antioch College. His FSA pictures were included in Just Before the War, exhibition in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress shown on the Gallery of the Main Library February 14–March 30, 1969.[3]

During World War II, a conscientious objector, Myers was conscripted to  the U.S. Forest Service and photographed patients of a mental hospital in Spokane, Washington. After the war he attended the California School of Fine Arts which was then staffed by Ansel Adams, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model, and Edward Weston.[4][5] His gritty portrait of a heavily laden and exhausted farm boy featured in Edward Steichen’s 1955 exhibition The Family of Man for the Museum of Modern Art that was seen by 9 million visitors worldwide.[6]

Cinematographer and director[edit]

In 1957 he directed a documentary film Ansel Adams, Photographer, written by Nancy Newhall and narrated by Beaumont Newhall.[7] He then directed the documentary short Ask Me, Don't Tell Me (1961) with the support of photographer Imogen Cunningham,[8] and continued his career shooting documentaries for both National Geographic and the United Nations through the 1960s, requiring much international travel. His first major credit was co-photography with Didier Tarot on Agnes Varda's short Oncle Yanco ( 'Uncle Yanco', 1967), made in San Francisco about one of her relatives who was a painter leading a hippie life on a barge.

At fifty-six, his contribution as one of five camera operators on the landmark rock concert documentary Woodstock (1970) brought an Oscar and established his reputation as a filmmaker in the rock music industry. That achievement was followed by his cinematography on Johnny Cash in San Quentin (1969), Elvis on Tour (1972), Joe Cocker: Mad Dogs & Englishmen (1971), Soul to Soul (1971), Wattstax (1973), Let the Good Times Roll (1973), Save the Children (1973), The Grateful Dead (1977), Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz (1978), Neil Young's Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Rust Never Sleeps (1979) and Joni Mitchell's Shadows and Light (1980).

Myers also shot the Oscar-winning documentary Marjoe (1972) and The Mysterious Monsters (1975) on paranormal phenomena. in addition to documentary work, Myers was the cinematographer on feature films including George Lucas' early THX 1138 (1971), Welcome to L.A. (1976), Bob Dylan's Renaldo and Clara (1978), FM (1978), Roadie (1980), Zoot Suit (1981) and UFOria (1985).

Legacy and death[edit]

Myers was made an honorary member of the Society of Operating Cameramen before he died at age 90 following a stroke on August 26, 2004.


  1. ^ Garver, Thomas H; Newport Harbor Art Museum; Library of Congress; United States. Farm Security Administration (1968), Just before the war; urban America from 1935 to 1941 as seen by photographers of the Farm Security Administration, Printed by Rapid Lithograph Co
  2. ^ Goode, James M (2012), Capital views : historic photographs of Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Loudoun County, Virginia, and Frederick County, Maryland, Smithsonian ; Enfield : Publishers Group UK [distributor], ISBN 978-1-58834-331-4
  3. ^ Information Bulletin, Library of Congress, p.68, 1969
  4. ^ Exhibition: The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography 1945-55, September 4 – October 15, 2010 at Smith Andersen North Gallery in San Anselmo, California
  5. ^ Heick, William; Latour, Ira H., (author.); Macauley, C. Cameron, (author.); Ball, Ken, (editor.); Whyte, Victoria, (editor.) (2016), The golden decade : photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55 (First ed.), Steidl, ISBN 978-3-86930-902-6CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Steichen, Edward; Norman, Dorothy (1955). Mason, Jerry, ed. The family of man : the photographic exhibition. Sandburg, Carl, (writer of foreword), Lionni, Leo, (book designer), Stoller, Ezra, (photographer). New York, N.Y.: Museum of Modern Art / Maco Magazine Corporation.
  7. ^ Warren, Lynne; Warren, Lynn (2005), Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, 3-Volume Set, Taylor and Francis, ISBN 978-0-203-94338-0
  8. ^ David Myers interviewed in Dater, Judy; Cunningham, Imogen, 1883-1976; Imogen Cunningham Trust (1979), Imogen Cunningham : a portrait (1st ed.), New York Graphic Society ; London : Gordon Fraser, ISBN 978-0-8212-0751-2CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)