By Adam B. Vary
October 11, 2012 at 08:07 PM EDT
Franco Biciocchi/Everett Collection

Harris Savides, the cinematographer behind some of the most visually striking films and music videos of the last 20 years, passed away today. He was 55.

A native New Yorker, Savides started out his career as a fashion photographer. Moving into music videos, he collaborated with director Mark Romanek on his iconic videos for Madonna’s “Rain” (for which Savides won a Video Music Award), Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream,” and Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” — giving each video its own sleek, burnished cinematic bearing.

Harris also worked on music videos and commercials with David Fincher and Gus Van Sant, a partnership that would continue into feature films, including Fincher’s The Game and Zodiac, and six movies with Van Sant: Finding ForresterGerryElephantLast DaysMilk, and Restless. Savides also shot Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg, and Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and her upcoming drama The Bling Ring with Emma Watson.

He has said that as he matured as a director of photography, he became most interested in serving the storytelling over creating beautiful imagery for its own sake. “On one level, I don’t want the work to be photographic,” he told the Village Voice in 2004. “But I’d also have trouble doing a comedy, where there’s so much that needs to be delivered verbally. It’s about having an opportunity to tell the story without words.”

Earlier this year, he stopped by the offices of cineaste treasury Criterion to discuss some of the most influential films of his career, and recorded this video on his thoughts about filmmaking:

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