James Dean
Photographed By
Roy Schatt
The Eternal Link Between Photography And Film

What Up Yo.

Photography, at its essence, is film. Movies, cinema. One couldn’t exist without the other.

The invention of photography in 1840 lead to the invention of the first motion picture camera in 1890.

And to love photographs, there can be a love of film, and vice versa.

You can relish in the lush photographs of a Stanley Kubrick film, even through watching films your seeing the photographs 24 times a second.

Both are a passion of mine.

Which is why I created Voices:

Voices Film & TV

Voices Film & TV (http://voicesfilm.com), blog and podcast. It’s the small mountain I built with my bare hands, to climb atop and scream my praise from. Started it up 4 years ago, took the name from its singular purpose; To “Voice” or state an opinion, to express a point of view.




And Wes Candela Photography:


© 2008-2017 Wes Candela Photography LLC

I love both art forms, because one led me into the other.


Watching movies…specifically letterboxed films…on laserdiscs growing up.


So, I didn’t realize when watching movies on cable and VHS, you were watching a cropped version of the film.

You weren’t seeing the full image that the director and choreographer had composed, because they were shooting the film in either a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, or for the grand, epic movies, a 2:35, 2:39, 2:40 or 2:50 to 1 aspect ratio.

What the hell am I talking about?

Speaking a child of the 80’s.

TV’s were squares before they were the 18:9 sets that are now standard.

Films were shot in a rectangular aspect ratio.

To fit the rectangular image on the square screen, a process was used during the transferring of a film to VHS tape.

The studios would crop off the left and right sides of 35mm (or 65mm or 70mm) film negative to fit the rectangular image onto our square TV screens.

This was done using a process called “pan and scan”.

To most people, who cared.

But to a cinephile, this was like chopping the right and left sides off a painting in a museum.

We weren’t being shown what the filmmakers had painstakingly crafted for us, the viewer, to see in it’s entirety.

We we’re seeing 1/2 the image most of the time.

So instead of seeing this:

The full scope of the famous chariot sequence, in all its widescreen glory from the film Ben Hur…

We  were seeing this:

As I said, to the cinephiles, this was blasphemy. It was  butchery.

It was defacing art.

We now have the opposite problem.

Ever notice the black bars on the sides of your TV’s when you’re watching an old tv show like Friends or Seinfeld or whatever?

That’s because they used to shoot most television shows in 4 x 3 aspect ratio to fit your TV.

in other words:

They used to shoot a square image to fit your square TV sets.

Now your TV’s are rectangular.

The square footage cannot fill the entire screen. That’s why you have black bars on the side, unless you decide to zoom in and crop off the tops and bottom of the image to have the image fit.

Your television is a rectangle now to accommodate films and TV series shot in 16 : 9 format.

However this does not fully accommodate films shot in 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio.

Now what the hell is he talking about?

Films used to shot like tv shows, until TV’s entered households in the 1950’s.

To offer something to the audience they couldn’t get on their TV’s, new widescreen formats were invented to get the viewers back into the cinemas.

CinemaScope. The ultra wide format still used for select films today.

Think Star Wars, The Sound Of Music, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Think Die Hard,

Think Lawrence of Arabia.


These films are shot in large-format widescreen,  much wider than your current televisions.

Therefore, you still get slim black bars on the top and the bottom of your tv screen still when watching some of these wife format films.

These black bars would literally take up half your older TV sets.

Not they aren’t as intrusive because the TV screens are now wider, rectangular.

When I realized this Cropping was happening, I was young, and it broke my heart.

I felt like I had been lied to for years.

I realized I hadn’t seen a lot of films in their entirety because of this pan and scan process.

I researched, and learned the only way to see a film without the sides being cropped off was by getting a “Laserdisc” player.

On Laserdisc, they presented the films in “Letterbox” format.

They called it that because of the shape of a letterbox on your front door.

They would scan the entire film negative and put it on your TV, leaving black bars would be on the top and bottom, the image would be letterboxed.

I wanted to see Superman The Movie in full widescreen “letterboxed” format,

I wanted to see the whole movie.

I would need to beg my father for a laserdisc player.

I explained the crime I had uncovered and how it had to be remedied immediately because technically…all of the films I had watched to that point I had only seen half of.

 “Help me father!  Help me right this wrong in the name of all cinephiles files in the world!! Help me view these movies as the directors intended me to see them!!”

God bless my Pop.
Those things cost a fortune.
He bought me one for Christmas that year.


Why am I explaining this?


The cool thing about watching a film, on a square 28″ screen, with black bars on the top and the  bottom all those years, was that it was like looking through a viewfinder on a camera.

The movies photography was framed, completely on display to study.

It bothered a lot of people, but to me…I loved it.

Years later, I would start taking pictures, I came to realize that I was learning composition, angles, tight shots.

That as I was watching these films in letterbox format, you could see the structure of photography.

I was learning how to compose a photograph without knowing it.

I was developing an appreciation of photography.

And photographers.

There’s an art to capturing a photograph.

A great photographs never dies, it brings you right into that moment in time.

Let’s you study the different pieces of it, the eyes and mood of a subject.

The more you look, the more you see.

It pays ultimate respect to that moment…if done right.

In 1954, James Dean was photographed by photographer Roy Schatt over the course of multiple photo shoots.

Some of these images I have never seen.

Some are legend.

I wanted to share them with you.

Go to the Westwood Gallery link below for more info Roy Schatt and other artists.

Westwood Gallery – Roy Schatt

Roy Schatt was born in New York City in 1909 and pursued a lifelong passion and career in the arts. He studied under N.C. Wyeth, painted murals during the WPA…


James Dean Photographed By Roy Schatt, 1954










Scroll to top