Ever since I first starting going to the movies, I’ve been intrigued by the tiny windowed room above the audience. I imagined a projectionist threading film into a complicated maze of wheels and sprockets, or splicing trailers under the dim light of an editing table, or maybe even staring back at me from the shadowy recesses.

I knew that someday I’d set aside the time to explore and shoot projection booths. But in 2011 the mission became urgent when I discovered that theaters were under pressure to replace film projection with digital. The quaint booths familiar from films like Sherlock Junior and Cinema Paradiso were being replaced with a laptop connected to a box with a lens.

And so for the past couple of years I've carried my camera into those rooms, capturing the strange beauty of the machines and tools and faces of the last remaining film projection booths.


Steve Buscemi

Throughout the 1930's and 40's, my grandfather Harry Wilson was a film projectionist at the Loews Bay Ridge Theatre on 72nd Street and 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn, not far from where he lived. Family stories of his stubbornness were legendary — despite angry shouts from the audience, he once refused to stop the movie and change an out-of-order reel that was probably mislabeled.

When my mother was a young girl, she would bring supper to her father during his five-to-midnight shift. And then instead of going straight home as instructed, she would sneak downstairs into the back of the theatre to watch whatever movie was playing. She was always a little afraid that Harry would manage to stick his head out of the projection booth window and catch her sitting in the back row. It didn't dissuade her, but it did add to the excitement.

For most of us who love going to the movies, the projection booth and what goes on in there is a bit of a mystery, if we even think about it at all. I for one am glad that Joe Holmes not only thinks about it, but has taken the time to document it in his unique way.

I've known Joe for over twenty years and I've always enjoyed and admired his photographs of everyday life. And now he brings his fine sense of directness, detail and simplicity to every shot in this new series.

Each image offers a glimpse into a private world that is all but gone, each booth similar to all the others and yet at the same time personal to the projectionist who inhabits it. These intimate portrayals give me both an oddly warm feeling and a sense of sadness.

Things change, technology moves us forward, and most of us won't even notice the difference. Joe takes note and honors film projection and its technicians with dignity and beauty. I only wish Joe had been around seventy or so years earlier to capture my grandfather in his domain.