These are some of the people I’ve seen who rented out their houses but who stayed for the filming:

• A nuclear physicist with oily skin

• A dentist with two friends standing around

• A burly motorcyclist who collects delicate porcelain figurines and embroideries

• A real-estate agent with his pants pulled up too high

• A couple from Germany who spend the afternoon cutting up vegetables for an elaborate dinner that they prepared together

• A day trader with a phone and beeper on his belt

• A single mother with a bedroom filled with male friends waiting to watch a sex scene

• A gay couple who removed all the pillows and cushions from the couch

• An older Swedish woman who showed me pictures from her childhood

Ideas for Photographs:

Dad looking like Johnny Carson

Mom looking up – photographed from high vantage point (like in movie still)

Walking the dog at night

Mom at work, at the office or at an open house

Where are pictures of them with their kids?

Still-life of dresser or desk

Dad looking to the side with sloppy background, maybe car

Shaking hands

Project the Dale Carnegie photograph and do portrait of dad standing front of it

Close-up, looking to the side

Mom opening up curtain

At the water, fishing

Pictures of me?

This is from the series, Five Photographers Share Their Favorite Influential Films, for Focus Features

1. The Incredible Shrinking Man 1957, Jack Arnold

I have always been drawn to the darker side of home life and in particular the house as a source of vulnerability as well as comfort. This film was probably billed as a science fiction or horror film but for me it was a pure existential probe into being and nothingness. It tells the story of a man who, having come in contact with radiation, slowly shrinks to the size of a speck of dust. In the process of his miniaturization the world around him becomes crazily gigantic and impossible to navigate. His own home becomes a dangerous and threatening place filled domestic terrors including the enormous pet cat and menacing, gigantic spiders. I was 12 when I first saw the film and the shrinking man’s loss of power and diminishing masculinity proved a perfect reflection of my own adolescent anxiety.

2. 5:10 To Dreamland 1977 Bruce Connor

In 1977 I had just finished creating a book with artist Mike Mandel of institutional photographs titled Evidence that was, in part, inspired by Bruce Connor’s first film A Movie. Connor was a master of creating haunting films from old newsreels, industrial films, commercials and stock footage. He was brilliant at weaving together disparate images into a hypnotic, ethereal and open-ended narrative structure the result being more of a trance than a film. For me, 5:10 to Dreamland is his most poetic work. When I first saw the film in the late 1970’s I was stunned by the dense atmosphere of the sound track paired with the sequencing of disconnected images and the mysterious, heavy beauty it created.

3. Safe 1995, Todd Haynes

I don’t think any filmmaker nails the fundamental claustrophobia of suburban domestic spaces better than Todd Haynes. In his film, Safe he transforms the signifiers of “hominess” – bedroom sets with mirrored closet doors, lushly furnished living rooms into a toxic and unsettling environments. It is architecture as a stand-in for the sickness of the spirit. The way the camera moves in these rooms and frames the actors within them creates a sense of heightened estrangement and discomfort even in the most familiar and mundane terrain. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for daylight glowing through drawn drapes but I’ve never seen interiors made so beautifully uncanny and sinister.

4. Taris, (1931) Jean Vigo

Jean Vigo died at the age of 29 after having made only 4 films. His short film Taris, a “documentary” on the champion swimmer Jean Taris is probably his most modest film, but for me, it is a masterpiece of magic realism. What might have been a straightforward depiction of a great swimmer becomes, in Vigo’s camera, a haunting meditation on a white body in inky water. The scenes shot underwater are breathtakingly graceful and strange. It is also an incredible testament to an artist’s open-minded curiosity and the feverish exploration of a developing medium. In the end both Taris and Vigo walk on water.

5. An American Family 1973, Alan and Susan Raymond

The Loud Family was filmed in 1971 over 300 hours as they went about their daily life in Southern California. That the representation of someone’s else’s life in all it’s vivid and banal specificity could not only be interesting but bring to mind my own family life was an incredible revelation – one that gave me reassurance and courage over the 9 years that I photographed mine in the 1980’s.

From 2001

Living Room

Spin the bottle
Strip poker
Throwing paper plates
Puzzle on table
Blankets/bedding on floor
Wet clothes from rain
Dog shaking water
Drying hair with towel
Sitting on lap
Pushing face
Stuff going on outside through windows
Barbeque in rain
Back shot of pulling on clothes
Emptying pockets onto table
Peeling food – grapefruit
Feeding –stuffing each other
Silly food games
Towels on floor wet
Tying shoes together
Sitting on back/wrestling


Trays of cookie mix/taquitos
Washing hair in sink
cutting cookie dough
unloading shopping bags
grapes tossed in mouth
spilling wheat thins
drinking milk from cartons
cleaning up spilt milk
sitting on counters while preparing foods
unloading pocket of change / counting money
cheese spread food fight
tossing white bread
knocking over glass


Reading / pulling book away
Pulling bed sheets away / grasping
Going through her backpack/purse
Impressions of body in bed
Stepped out of clothes
Sitting on floor
Someone entering / shot over the shoulder
Suggestions of sex
Dog on bed
Headphones in bed
Inside /outside of back bedroom


Conversation in the car in rain
Walking in rain with jacket over head
Eating junk food on curb
Piggyback on street
Walking with ball
Covering the pool
Hopping fence
Flashlight looking for something
Car headlights finding something
Barbeque on fire
Something in pool
Picking something off the street at night