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Legendary Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond Dies At 85
In this April 7, 2015 file photo, Hungarian born cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond is interviewed by the Hungarian News Agency MTI in Budapest, Hungary. (Tamas Kovacs/MTI via AP)
Oscar winner for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
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The legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, best known for “The Deer Hunter” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” has died.

His business partner Yuri Neyman confirmed that Zsigmond died on Friday in Big Sur, California. Zsigmond was 85.

The Hungarian-born Zsigmond helped define cinema’s American New Wave in the 1970s through iconic collaborations and a preference for natural light. He first gained renown for his collaboration with Robert Altman on classics “McCabe & Mrs. Miller” and “The Long Goodbye.” In addition to his work on Michael Cimino’s classic “The Deer Hunter,” for which he earned an Oscar nomination, Zsigmond also worked with Brian De Palma on a number of films including “Blow Out.”

Zsigmond won the Oscar for Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Zsigmond was also active in commercials as a DP and director. In the latter capacity he was at one point partnered in commercial production company Cinematic Directions with another renowned cinematographer, Haskell Wexler, who also passed away last week (SHOOTonline, 12/27/150) at the age of 93.

Steven Poster ASC, president of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600), issued a statement on Zsigmond’s passing.

“The cinematography world lost a great talent today,” stated Poster. “Vilmos’ genius was not only in his images, but in his sense of duty to honest storytelling. As one of our most esteemed members, Vilmos was an inspiration and mentor to many of us in the International Cinematographers Guild. In 2003, our members voted him one of the top 10 influential cinematographers of all time. I was privileged to work as his 2nd unit DP on three of his movies. We all knew what a giant he was as an artist at the time. But working up close with him, I also learned about perseverance and an obligation to the story from the master.

“There is not a member at the International Cinematographers Guild who has not been impacted by his brilliant photography and his personal story,” continued Poster. “His brave beginnings providing footage from the Hungarian revolution will always be an important part of his legacy and to future generations of cinematographers and film students. He made a difference. He will continue to be an inspiration to cinematographers everywhere.”