Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and how to make a paper movie by Lou Stoumen
In the mid-1980s documentary film maker, photographer and teacher Lou Stoumen was commissioned to produce a series of photographs that would accompany Raymond Chandler’s classic, archetype 1930s detective fiction book The Big Sleep.
The resulting photographs were intended to look like stills from a film of the book and the process of creating them shared a number of similar aspects with that of film making; casting, location scouting and so forth.
What he produced he called “a paper movie”.
In the book’s Photographer’s Note, Lou Stoumen talks about how he was a street photographer (he photographed New York’s Times Square for 45 years – work that was published by Aperture), that his camera eye eschewed fiction and that he had always though that there in the streets was where visual truth manifests itself.
In a way the finished product reminded me of the staged mod/scooter boy photographs that accompany The Who’s Quadrophenia album; although a photographic fiction, they seem like a definitive, minds eye observation of the spirit of the subculture from which they sprung.
I think the Lou Stoumen accompanied version of The Big Sleep quietly wandered into my mind at a pivotal, transitional point of my own Afterhours work. Not so much the photographs themselves, as the intention of creating a film on paper.
It helped move my own Afterhours work towards where I had always wanted to be; not so much a document of particular scene or subculture, more a reflection of the filmic Soho noir that played behind my eyes, an expression of my own particular Soho of the mind.
Peruse the book here.
View a selection of Lou Stoumen’s other work at Luminous Lint.