Michael Ballhaus, the German, veteran cinematographer who shot a great number of films for Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and more, died today at age 81.
Ballhaus’ own camerawork was nominated three times for Academy Awards for Broadcast News, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Gangs of New York. He helped Scorsese’s The Departed win Best Picture in 2006 and also shot The Last Temptation of Christ, After Hours, Goodfellas and The Age of Innocence for the director.
Ballhaus passed away in the evening in Berlin, according to German publishing house Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt (DVA), who also published his 2014 autobiography. Best known for his signature 360-degree tracking shot first seen in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Martha, Ballhaus had more than 120 DP credits. He told Variety of working with Fassbinder:
It helped a lot because he was not an easy director. He was very hard on me and he was very pushy. He always cracked the whip to be fast and not to spend too much time. So I learned to be fast and still tried to be good. That was a big help later when I started shooting in the States. It was also a big help because he was so temperamental that from then on I knew I could handle every director in the world.
Ballhaus is survived by his wife Sherry Hormann, whom he wed in 2011.