In memory of David Owen, he captured light & magic.

May 17, 2021

We were greatly saddened to learn that over the weekend that our friend and colleague, David Owen, a still photographer and documentarian at ILM for nearly 25 years had passed away. David joined ILM in 1988 having relocated from his native England. He was one of a small cadre of people that worked behind the scenes in ILM’s Still Photo Department documenting the company’s work over the years. It wasn’t so much the work he documented, but the people. He loved making images that told a story – Snapshots in time of what the amazing talent gathered around him were creating.

We often hear from people who say that the books chronicling ILM greatly impacted them and inspired many to want to get into the industry. ILM Still Photographer David Owen was a tremendous contributor to our second book, Into the Digital Realm, as well as our third book, Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation providing invaluable research assistance and of course much of the photo documentation for the projects featured in the books. He documented ILM’s work on a great many projects including Ghostbusters II, Back to the Future II, Death Becomes Her, Casper, Star Trek: First Contact, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Lone Ranger, and many others. While we all work behind the scenes at ILM, some work a bit further back than others. David captured many of the iconic behind-the-scenes moments be they in the model shop, on stage, or with the digital teams that help tell the story of what the talented teams at ILM do.

David was often tasked with going on set to shoot reference photography of wardrobe, props, and the actors themselves, in the process of making and cataloging thousands of images that would be used by artists back at the studio to recreate the clothing, objects, and people down to the smallest detail. On set he was the consummate professional and possessed a quiet demeanor that managed to make his sense of humor all the funnier when his dry wit would come through.

Texture Supervisor and frequent collaborator of David’s, Jean Bolte, shared, “Some of us at ILM do work that ends up on the screen. We all strive to make it look as good as possible. If we succeed, it’s due in large part to those who have worked hard behind the scenes to make it happen. David Owen was one of those people,” she continued, “over the years I watched him shoot calmly and professionally, photographing reference on everything from the inside of a dumpster, to live bats, to actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. After he set his lights and triple-checked his equipment, there was a story to tell, keeping us entertained. Thanks, Dave, you made us look good.“

It is with great sorrow that we say goodbye to David but we know that his work lives on in the images he made and those and will continue to inspire for generations to come.