Rare Photos of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Werner Herzog, by Eva Sereny

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Sereny worked on three 'Indiana Jones' movies thanks to her friendship with producer Frank Marshall. “Steven’s sets were the most fun,” she says. This playful moment was taken on the set of 1984’s 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom': From left, Kate Capshaw, director Spielberg (who would marry Capshaw), 'Jones' franchise creator George Lucas and star Harrison Ford. Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

Eva Sereny got to work with François Truffaut just once—on 1973’s Day for Night—but the French director shared a piece of advice she’s never forgotten. “He told me, ‘If you’ve seen a good film, you must see it two or three times,’” says Sereny. “‘Only then can you pick up the nuances.’”

You could say the same of her photographs. Swiss-born and British-raised, Sereny was one of the only female set photographers in the ’70s and '80s, and she worked with virtually every major director, from Bernardo Bertolucci to Steven Spielberg. A new book,Through Her Lens (ACC Art Books), showcases her gift for humanizing glamour, and for capturing moments cinematic in their naturalism. Her portraits of women, including Jacqueline Bisset and Charlotte Rampling, have a fierce, intelligent sensuality, unusual at a time of mindless objectivity. "Eva's photographs capture the deeper soul," Bisset writes in an introduction to Through Her Lens.

Sereny—shy in person but fearless behind the camera—inhabited the edges of sets, “hiding behind people,” waiting for the pause in filmmaking. She was deeply influenced by Bertolucci and his director of photography, Vittorio Stararo, whose “lighting was incomparable.” And she marveled over Federico Fellini’s “capacity to ‘paint’ his ideas on the screen.”

She eventually directed her own film, 1984’s The Dress, winning a BAFTA at 34. “I thought the world was at my feet,” she says. But gender limitations—never felt as a photographer—were crystallized by a top Hollywood agent. “Yours is an interesting story,” he told her, “but you’re a woman, and you’re not 20.”

Sereny’s last set job was for one of the Bourne movies; she won’t specify which—it was not a pleasant experience. The respect she had received, and the inspiration provided by masters like Fellini, were gone. The Italian director (“who had the worst language—unrepeatable!”) mapped out every aspect of a film beforehand, and populated his work with nonprofessionals he found on the street. “One poor guy, playing a sultan in Casanova, was so nervous he kept forgetting his lines,” says Sereny. “Fellini grew impatient, shouting, “For Christ’s sake, just say the Lord’s Prayer.’” The real lines were later dubbed in post-production.

Through Her Lens includes Sereny's portraits of the cultural giants of the '70s and '80s—including Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave. The images below, many published for the first time, capture directors, for once not calling the shots. 

CUL_Sereny_01 Sereny worked on three 'Indiana Jones' movies thanks to her friendship with producer Frank Marshall. “Steven’s sets were the most fun,” she says. This playful moment was taken on the set of 1984’s 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom': From left, Kate Capshaw, director Spielberg (who would marry Capshaw), 'Jones' franchise creator George Lucas and star Harrison Ford. Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

CUL_Sereny_02 Truffaut, one of the founders of French New Wave, on the set of 1973’s 'Day for Night,' with his star Jacqueline Bisset. Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

CUL_Sereny_03 Marlon Brando with Bertolucci on the set of 1972’s 'Last Tango in Paris.' The erotic film landed an X rating (for an infamous rape scene), and it was a hot topic from the moment the production began. Long lines formed at every art house cinema where it played, and critic Pauline Kael wrote, “This is a movie people will be arguing about for as long as there are movies.” Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

CUL_Sereny_04 Mike Nichols directs Art Garfunkel in a scene from the 1970 black comedy 'Catch-22'—Sereny’s first job as a set photographer. Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

CUL_Sereny_05 Fellini himself applies makeup to Donald Sutherland, the star of his 1976 film 'Casanova,' as the makeup artist observes. “His attention to detail was astounding,” says Sereny of the legendary filmmaker. Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

CUL_Sereny_06 Werner Herzog in the Dutch city of Delft, during the filming of 1979’s 'Nosferatu the Vampyre.' Truffaut had proclaimed Herzog “the most important director alive.” He posed with a hawk. “I have no idea why,” says Sereny. “He was much more into mice.” Photograph by Eva Sereny (Iconic Images)

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