A prolific director of photography whose films run the gamut from broad comedies to character-driven dramas, Victor J. Kemper may not be as well-known as some of his colleagues, but he is a respected and talented practitioner of his craft. Born and raised in Newark, NJ, he began his career in the nascent television industry in the late 1940s, working as a sound mixer, sound recorder, floor manager and technical director. After a brief detour operating a hat manufacturing factory with a cousin in Florida, Kemper returned to New Jersey and his true calling. When he learned of a training course offered by Ampex on their new videotape system, he asked his employer to pay for the training. When the station manager refused, Kemper quit his job and spent his own money for the classes. When he returned East, he was the only freelance worker in the NYC area with knowledge of the system and therefore was in demand. EUE, a respected commercial production company hired him in a technical capacity and he remained there until Screen Gems purchased the company and closed the video department. Forming VJK Productions, Kemper operated his own company for about two years before his main backer died.
By this time, Kemper had developed contacts and several cinematographers offered him work as an assistant cameraman. Apprenticing with Arthur J. Ornitz, Kemper worked on such films as the ballet version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1966), "Charly" (1968) and "Me, Natalie" (1969). John Cassavetes hired him as standby cinematographer for "Husbands" (1970) and when noted Italian cinematographer Aldo Tonti dropped out, Kemper stepped in. Remaining based in the East, the cinematographer worked on a couple of films before Hollywood finally beckoned. His first feature shot on studio soundstages was "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" (1972). Proving adept at both dramatic and comedic material, Kemper remained active for the better part of the next three decades, shooting such seminal films as "The Candidate" (1972), with its documentary-like hand-held shots, "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), with its gritty, urban look, and "Slapshot" (1977), with its quick cuts and washed-out images. He has a stated preference for comedies and his work on such films as "The Jerk" (1979), "The Four Seasons" (1981), "Crazy People" (1990), "Beethoven" (1992) and "Jingle All the Way" (1996) has assisted in making those films appreciable by moviegoers. After serving as president of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) from 1993 to 1996, Kemper was honored with the 1998 ASC Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cinematography (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cinematography (TV Mini-Series)
Served in the US military during WWII
First credit as camera operator, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", shot by Ornitz
Operated the camera for Michael Nebbia on "Alice's Restaurant"
Hired to replace Aldo Tonti as cinematographer for John Cassavetes' "Husbands" (film released in 1970)
First Hollywood picture "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers"
Won praise for his work on "The Candidate"
Served as director of photography for Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon"
Shot the hockey comedy-drama "Slapshot"
TV-movie debut as director of photography, "The Prince of Central Park" (CBS)
Was cinematographer for "The Jerk"
Provided the memorable look to "The Four Seasons"
Collaborated with Tim Burton on "Pee-wee's Big Adventure"
Shot the acclaimed TV-movie "The Atlanta Child Murders" (CBS)
Garnered an Emmy nomination for his work on the TV-movie "
Was director of photography on "Crazy People"
Appeared as one of the interviewees in the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography"
Served as cinematographer for "Jingle All the Way"