Ed Lachman interview: ‘The Velvet Underground’ cinematographer
Prior to doing the cinematography for the documentary, “The Velvet Underground,” Ed Lachman had a personal connection to the band but in a very roundabout way. “I’m old enough that I was around at that time. I had been to The Factory and I knew Nico,” he tells us during our recent webchat (watch the video interview above). He would work with other members of the band after they broke up. “20 years later I did a concert the last time Lou Reed and John Cale did original music together, an homage to Andy Warhol called, ‘Songs for Drella.’ It’s very intimate and it’s really subjective between the two of them in their reflection of themselves.”
“The Velvet Underground,” which is currently streaming on Apple TV+, chronicles the band that was comprised of Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker. After forming in 1965, Andy Warhol would become the band’s manager in 1966. The group performed throughout the rest of the ’60s and eventually disbanded in the early 1970s. The film is the first documentary to be directed by Oscar nominee Todd Haynes. Lachman, whose been working as a cinematographer for over 40 years, has been nominated for two Oscars, both times for films directed by Haynes: “Far From Heaven” (2002) and “Carol” (2015).
In developing the look of the film, Lachman gives a lot of credit to Haynes for making several important decisions. “Todd first made the decision of only using interviews with people that actually were in that scene and knew them personally.” Lachman adds that Haynes wanted a visual style that was reflective of the fact that band was very influenced by visual artists including Warhol and avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas. “He didn’t want the oral history to be the guide or the driving force, but more the experience of what the music and the visual were around them.”’
Lachman has worked with Haynes for nearly 20 years and Lachman credits the long working relationship to the fields of study that they both pursued during college. “We both have a similar background in art history. I studied studio arts and he studied semiology at Brown, so we have kind of a common ground there.” The comfortability that he has with Haynes has even affected the professional company that he keeps. “I have a crew I’ve worked with for the past 30 years and I try to keep that crew together for Todd.”