Steve Harries and Mel Bles – Location Project


“Steve Harries and Mel Bles traced the locations used in the making of famous 1970s films – including Taxi Driver, The Godfather and The Last Picture Show – and then photographed these places which, owing to their appearance on celluloid, have been strongly imprinted in the minds of millions moviegoers. What started as a simple journey turned into an epic road trip. They shot on Kodak colour negative film using a Mamiya 6×7 medium-format camera. Exhibition includes maps and ephemera. “

More of this project can be seen at

“The Seventies decade presented us with the ‘New Hollywood’era. This now iconic period of filmmaking produced unique works by maverick directors who fought to pursue a personal path far from the corporate bias of the Los Angeles studio system. Thirty years has done little to subdue the interest in these films,or to alter the appearance of many of these distinguishable locations. Others recognise the passing of time with a small but intriguing resemblance to the original scene. The selected films and filmmakers from this period (Coppola, Friedkin, Bogdanovich, Spielberg, Malick, Scorsese etc.) are all well recognised and have extensively influenced the industry to date. There is no doubt the stories behind these images generate a level of nostalgia, however they also document changes undergone throughout the United States since a period of filmmaking which shaped a rebellious generation.”

(from Format festival booklet )

‘Location’ Steve Harries and Mel Bles
Essay by Michael Phillips, Los Angeles, 2003
Producer, Taxi Driver
Producer, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

We took over a condemned building on Amsterdam Avenue and turned it into our ‘studio’. We built the sets for Iris’s apartment on the third floor and Travis’s apartment on the second. The upper West Side was nothing like it is today. It looked like Dresden after the war, row after row of bombed out, abandoned buildings. We had to pay one street gang to protect us from another. But somehow it felt right for us. We were underdogs – the film that Columbia was reluctant to make, and probably only did so because we promised to do the picture at a bargain price of $1.5 million. We came in at $1.9 million. We took a lot of heat from the Studio all through production, and did in fact feel we were in a war zone and belonged where we were. Travis’s combat jacket was an appropriate symbol. Brian De Palma gave me the script in 1972 while Paul Schrader, then a journalist, was writing an article on him. Brian said it wasn’t for him but he thought I might like it. He was right. It was riveting. Schrader had written it in eight days and it read like something pure and true spewing out of him. Unfortunately no one at the studios’ liked it. Schrader saw a rough cut of Mean Streets and thought Scorsese might be our Director. My partner Julia and I agreed and also offered the starring role to De Niro. At the time they were both below the studios’ radar, but after Marty made ‘Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore’ and Bobby won an Oscar for Godfather II, we had a package. We had to work for very low deals to get a green light. The Producers got $45,000, Scorsese $65,000. Schrader $30,000 and De Niro $35,000. At the last moment Columbia’s President David Begelman insisted we add more star power, so we offered Betsy to Cybil Shepherd. She got $100,000. Jodie Foster got $12,500. We shot the picture guerrilla style, not always getting proper clearances, permits etc. The dailies were extraordinary, but Begelman was not happy. They wanted Marty to shoot conventional coverage so we could pick up the pace. We lied and kept going; letting Marty and Cinematographer Michael Chapman weave their magic. De Niro was the classiest of us all. Despite very uncomfortable working conditions and having to spend several hours a day at one point putting on makeup and a Mohawk hairdo in a sweltering condemned building, he was unfailingly professional, positive and brilliant. At lunchtime, because of his makeup, he would remain in a small, air conditioned room while we left the building to eat. We’d bring him back a tuna fish sandwich. Interestingly, the most famous scene from the movie, “Are you talking to me ?”, was De Niro’s ad lib. Scorsese’s direction to him on the set? “Do something Bobby “. The spare purity of these wonderful photographic images evoke sharp memories in me of the excitement of seeing these films for the first time. Each was groundbreaking in its own way. For one, brief shining moment, the uneasy balance between art and commerce tipped toward art. I feel lucky to have worked in film in the 70’s. Hollywood was a friendly place, and all the film school brats were generous in helping each other with works in progress. There was a true camaraderie and excitement about what was being done in movies. Filmmakers were able to dream. Studio marketing departments existed to find out how to reach audiences, not to select which films to make because they were readily marketable. Taxi Driver has a special place in my heart. It was my baby and I bled for it. When I went to check out the projection on the morning of the opening day and saw people lined up around the block, I knew there was a god.

Mel Bles was always interested in photographs; her interest developed further when she was given a Nikon by her granddad who was losing his sight. Mel graduated with a Degree in Graphic Design, Photography from St Martins College of Art & Design, London in 2000. She has since worked on high profile editorial commissions including i-D, Dazed and Confused, British Vogue and Icon. Her advertising commissions include TopShop and The Guardian. Mel’s fast progressive career has lead to numerous exhibitions, tutoring at University of Gloucester, Cheltenham and Central St Martins, London as well as working on collaborative projects with Fashion Designer Hussein Chalayan and renowned set designer Shona Heath.

Steve Harries graduated in 1994 with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Graphic Design, Photography from St Martins College of Art & Design, London. Since graduating Steve has acheived a successful career as a photographer. His clientele includes Editorial commission with GQ Magazine, Esquire and The Telegraph Magazine. Advertising commissions include HSBC, Orange Mobile, Vivienne Westwood and Audi. Alongside his commissioned projects Steve has exhibited his collection throughout the UK and continues to develop as an artist by exploring photography further through self initiated projects.

/from Format 09 Gallery Guide/


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