I love old movie theaters. Ever since I began to have an interest in still photography I have been photographing theaters. It began in New York City back in the 1970’s. Back then, the theaters I photographed were not considered old, or classic. At the time, they were just the theaters where you went to see the latest new releases. Over the years, whenever I travel, I have always remained on the lookout for old theaters wherever I go. Theaters that have managed to survive the wrong arm of society’s law; old needs to be replaced. When we, my wife and I, moved to the Tamps Bay area in the late 1990’s we discovered the Tampa Theater. It’s a 1927 movie palace that was, and still is, actively showing current independent films, classic films as well as live shows. The building fortunately has been declared a landmark, so we should be able to enjoy its pleasures for years to come. In early 2008, we went to see “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” An art film, the Tampa Theater was the only place in town showing it at the time. On this particular occasion I took my camera and a tri-pod with the intent to photograph not only the outside, but the theater inside. I asked permission and management was gracious enough to allow me to shoot a few photos as long as I was not shooting during the showing of the film. Anyway, I took a series of shots both outside and in, some of which are shown here.
So what does all this have to do what creating a book cover? You see, both Amazon Publishing and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press plainly state about how you need to be sure there is no copyright infringement when selecting a book cover. If you use someone else’s photo, you must have permission to use the photograph, a rule I wholly support. Like any work of art, photographs belong to the artist. Bootlegging or using any work of art without permission is stealing someone’s property. For artists, their art is their work, it’s their paycheck. If you go this route, be sure you get written permission and always credit the artist.
The one caveat in all this are works that are in the public domain or fall into the fair use act. Legally, I have no idea where something like movie production stills fall. I know you can use them in film reviews as part of the fair use act but on a book cover? I really don’t think so. That said, I am no copyright lawyer nor a lawyer of any sort. What I do know is I needed a photo that would fit the mood of what the book is about. Film Noir is filled with dark streets in the night, shady dames and nasty men. In my own photographic files, I know I had nothing like that.
Then I remembered those Tampa Theater photographs I took in 2008.
I went through my archives and found the folder containing those photographs. There was one in particular I thought would be suitable. However, all my shots were all in color and I felt in order to fit the mood of my book, it needed to be a black and white shot. Black and white would reflect the tone of the films in the book as well as the movie going experience of the times these films were made. The photograph below is my original shot.
Anyone with Photoshop or any other photography program knows that turning a color photograph from color to back and white is just a click away. With a little cropping and a few other adjustments I thought I struck the right mood. I had a photograph of a theater, the kind of theatre moviegoers back in the 1940’s and 1950’s would have experienced seeing each and every one of the films I wrote about. The final result can be seen below.