Cinematographer Robby Müller (Curaçao, 1940−Amsterdam, 2018) was one of the greatest pioneers in his field. Raised in Indonesia and the Netherlands, Müller studied at the Dutch Film Academy in the early Sixties. As assistant to cinematographer Gérard Vandenberg, he left for Germany, where he met Wim Wenders. Their long-lasting collaboration included such iconic road movies as Alice in den Städten (1974), Im Lauf der Zeit (1976), and Paris, Texas (1984).
From the late 1970s, Müller also worked with directors such as Peter Bogdanovich, William Friedkin, and Barbet Schröder. A remarkable collaboration arose with Jim Jarmusch for the exquisite black-and-white films Down by Law (1986) and Dead Man (1995), in addition to the film Mystery Train (1989), with its bold use of color.
In the Nineties, Müller met with Lars von Trier with whom he experimented on radical new techniques such as handheld (video)camera work in Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dancer in the Dark (2000). During a four-decade long career comprising of almost 100 projects, he also collaborated with visual artists such as Steve McQueen, whose installation for Documenta 11, Carib’s Leap (2002), he shot.
Müller’s point of departure, when turning the pages of a script into images in a frame, was always the story being told and the emotional resonance it evoked. Famed for his treatment of light and shadow, he had an enormous gift for working with the available, natural light when composing his characteristic wide shots and long takes.
A lesser-known facet of Müller’s artistic output is his vast archive of Polaroids. Taken from an experimental standpoint, his Polaroids see Müller exploring the many faceted relationship between light, camera and photographer. Müller would often take Polaroids in moments in between his work on set, as studies in light and composition. As such, they mainly document his hotel rooms or the abstract patterns in urban landscapes he came upon during his walks through foreign cities. He would seek out lines in the typical square Polaroid format and find movement in light through the interplay of reflection and shadow. Müller also often photographed complex situations, such as the ‘blue hour’ where artificial and natural light meet. There is a clear line to be drawn therefore between the Polaroids and the films Müller made, with Mülller here establishing painterly tableaus through the instant medium of Polaroid. These stilled moments and compositions display the working mind and eye of Müller.
Müller's solo exhibitions include Robby Müller: Like Sunlight Coming Through The Clouds at Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam, Case Chiuse HQ, Milan, Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles and Slash Gallery (WORM), Rotterdam (2020); An Homage to Robby Müller at Annet Gelink Gallery (2018) and Master of Light at Deutsche Kinematiek, Berlin (2017) and EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (2016).