Harris Savides
Savides in 2008
Born(1957-09-28)September 28, 1957
DiedOctober 9, 2012(2012-10-09) (aged 55)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1993–2012

Harris Savides (/səˈvdɪs/; Greek: Χάρης Σαββίδης; September 28, 1957 – October 9, 2012)[1] was an American cinematographer. His notable films include Gus Van Sant's "young death" trilogy (Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days), and the Van Sant films Milk, Finding Forrester, and Restless; David Fincher's The Game, Zodiac, and the opening title sequence in Seven; Martin Scorsese's short film The Key to Reserva; Wong Kar Wai's short film The Follow; Ridley Scott's American Gangster; Woody Allen's Whatever Works; Sofia Coppola's Somewhere and The Bling Ring; Noah Baumbach's Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding; and John Turturro's Illuminata.


Feature films

Savides first solo job as a cinematographer was on the thriller Heaven's Prisoners (1996), directed by Phil Joanou and starring Alec Baldwin.[2] Before that film, he served as a cinematographer on a TV short film entitled The Investigator (1994) directed by Matthew Tabak and a TV movie Lake Consequence (1993) directed by Rafael Eisenman.[3] One of his earliest jobs was being the director of photography on a workout video from Cindy Crawford.[4]

Savides was the cinematographer for a total of six films directed by Gus Van Sant: Gerry, Elephant, Last Days, Milk, Finding Forrester, and Restless. Savides also shot two films for David Fincher: The Game and the mostly digital Zodiac, and the footage that was used in the opening title sequence of Fincher's Seven.[5] With Noah Baumbach Savides was director of photography on Greenberg and Margot at the Wedding, and under Martin Scorsese, the short film The Key to Reserva and with Wong Kar Wai, "The Follow," another short film. He was also the director of photography for Ridley Scott's American Gangster and Woody Allen's Whatever Works. He was additionally the director of photography on a film directed by John Turturro, Illuminata.

Savides was also the cinematographer on two films directed by Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring and Somewhere, a departure from Coppola's regular DP Lance Acord. For the visual style of Somewhere, she discussed Bruce Weber's Hollywood portraits and Helmut Newton's of models at the Chateau Marmont, and Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), the film by Chantal Akerman about the routine of a Belgian housewife, with Savides. Savides said, "The main thing was to tell the story really simply and let it play out in long beats and have the audience discover the moment."[6] Coppola used the lenses that her father had filmed Rumble Fish (1983) with in an effort to give the film a more period look, although it is set in the present.[7] The Bling Ring was Savides' last film.

Besides his frequent collaborations with Gus Van Sant, David Fincher, Noah Baumbach and Sofia Coppola, Savides was known for the very delicate images that he created for The Yards (directed by James Gray) and Birth (directed by Jonathan Glazer). In both instances he underexposed the filmstock by several stops in order to break up the colors and give the blacks a purplish and brownish tint. This non-conventional approach leads to a look that resembles the paintings of Georges de La Tour and Caravaggio.[8]

Music videos and short films

Savides was the cinematographer on a number of well-known music videos directed by Mark Romanek including Michael Jackson's Scream, Madonna's Rain and Bedtime Story, Fiona Apple's Criminal, and Nine Inch Nails' Closer. He has also served as cinematographer on the music videos for The Rolling Stones' "Like A Rolling Stone" (directed by Michel Gondry), Chris Isaak's Blue Spanish Sky (directed by Bruce Weber) and R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts (directed by Jake Scott, son of Ridley Scott). Savides is the only person to date that has won three MTV Video Music Awards for Best Cinematography in a Music Video (for Madonna's "Rain", Fiona Apple's "Criminal" and R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts") and the only person to win two in a row (for "Rain" by Madonna and "Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M.)[9] Savides was also the cinematographer for the Tom Waits music video, "Goin' Out West" (directed by Jesse Dylan).[10]

Savides was also the director of photography on a short film directed by Wong Kar Wai for BMW's "The Hire" film series entitled The Follow. The film starred Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and Adriana Lima.[11] Savides was also the director of photography on a short film directed by Martin Scorsese as a homage to Alfred Hitchcock (and also sponsored by Freixenet Cava champagne) entitled The Key to Reserva.[12]

Savides has also collaborated as a director of photography with director John Hillcoat (Lawless, The Proposition, The Road) in a series of Levi's commercials for their "To Work" advertising campaign.[13]

Personal life

Savides was born in New York City, New York, to parents of Greek Cypriot origin, Eleni, a clerical worker, and Savas Savides, a short-order cook.[1][14] He graduated with a degree in photography and film from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.[2][9]

Savides lived in Manhattan with his wife Medine, and daughter Sophie. He died from brain cancer, at age 55.[1]


Year Title Director
1992 Lake Consequence Rafael Eisenman
1996 Heaven's Prisoners Phil Joanou
1997 The Game David Fincher
1998 Illuminata John Turturro
2000 Finding Forrester Gus Van Sant
The Yards James Gray
2002 Gerry Gus Van Sant
2003 Elephant
2004 Birth Jonathan Glazer
2005 Last Days Gus Van Sant
2007 American Gangster Ridley Scott
Margot at the Wedding Noah Baumbach
Zodiac David Fincher
2008 Milk Gus Van Sant
2009 Whatever Works Woody Allen
2010 Greenberg Noah Baumbach
Somewhere Sofia Coppola
2011 Restless Gus Van Sant
2013 The Bling Ring* Sofia Coppola

*Posthumous release

Awards and nominations

Awards Year Work Result[15]
Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography 2003 Gerry Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cinematography Won
Elephant Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography Nominated
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography

International Cinephile Society Won
2005 Birth Nominated
Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography 2006 Last Days
Satellite Award for Best Cinematography 2007 Zodiac
BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography 2008 American Gangster
Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Cinematography

St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography 2009
National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography 2011 Somewhere
Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography Greenberg
Camerimage Cinematographer-Director Duo Award 2012 Won
Independent Spirit Special Distinction Award 2013


  1. ^ a b c Weber, Bruce Harris Savides, Visual Poet, Dies at 55 New York Times, October 12, 2012. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Jay A. Hernandez, 'Zodiac,' 'Milk' and 'American Gangster' Cinematographer Harris Savides Has Died at Age 55, http://www.indiewire.com/article/zodiac-milk-and-american-gangster-cinematographer-harris-savides-dies
  3. ^ "Harris Savides | Cinematographer, Camera and Electrical Department, Actor". IMDb. Retrieved December 21, 2023.
  4. ^ Id.
  5. ^ The Essentials: The Works of Harris Savides, http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the-essentials-our-favorite-work-by-cinematographer-harris-savides-20121011
  6. ^ Lim, Dennis It’s What She Knows: The Luxe Life New York Times, December 10, 2010. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
  7. ^ Linda Barnard (January 8, 2011). "Interview: Sofia Coppola". Toronto Star. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  8. ^ Chiaroscuro – From Caravaggio to Harris Savides, http://cdn.halcyonrealms.com/film/chiaroscuro-from-carravagio-to-harris-savides/
  9. ^ a b "Harris Savides - Biography". IMDb. Retrieved December 21, 2023.
  10. ^ Tom Waits Fan, Music Videos, Filmography, http://www.tomwaitsfan.com/tom%20waits%20library/www.tomwaitslibrary.com/filmography/filmographypromos-menu.html
  11. ^ The Follow (2001) - IMDb, retrieved December 21, 2023
  12. ^ The Key to Reserva, Official Film Page, http://www.scorsesefilmfreixenet.com/video_eng.htm
  13. ^ "The Essentials:The Works Of Harris Savides | The Playlist". blogs.indiewire.com. Archived from the original on October 14, 2012.
  14. ^ Joanna Varikos, Cinematographer Harris Savides, 55, Passes Away, http://hollywood.greekreporter.com/2012/10/11/cinematographer-harris-savides-55-passes-away/
  15. ^ "Harris Savides - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved December 21, 2023.