Cinematographer Fred J. Koenekamp, who won an Oscar for his work on The Towering Inferno, died May 31, the American Society of Cinematographers confirmed. He was 94.
Koenekamp began his decades-long career in cinematography in the camera department at RKO Studios. He spent 19 years working on camera crews with noted cinematographers, including Joseph Ruttenberg, John Alton, Robert Surtees, and Frank Phillips.
In 1963, Koenekamp worked as a camera operator on the television series Gunsmoke. That led to his first cinematography credit for the freshman season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for which he received two Emmy nominations.
Moving into features, he later shared a 1974 best cinematography Oscar with Joseph Biroc for their collaboration on The Towering Inferno. He also was Oscar-nominated for his work on Islands in the Stream and Patton. His other film credits include The Great Bank Robbery, Billy Jack, Kansas City Bomber, The Amityville Horror, Papillon and Fun With Dick and Jane.
His television credits also include Not My Kid, Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac, Kung Fu and Disaster on the Coastliner. Koenekamp earned his last feature film credit in 1991 for Flight of the Intruder. He also filmed a number of TV commercials.
Koenekamp is a second-generation filmmaker. His father, Hans Koenekamp, ASC, began his career as a cinematographer at Mack Sennett Studios in 1913. They were the first father and son to be honored by ASC. Hans Koenekamp received the ASC Presidents Award in 1991. Fred Koenekamp was the recipient of an ASC Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
“My early years in the industry were like going to school,” he was quoted in an ASC news release announcing his award. “I learned that you have got to really believe in the story for a film to truly move people. It has to sink into your brain and body, so you can relate with the characters and with what is happening to them. I think that is the most important lesson I learned. When that happens, the cinematography falls into place with the story, acting, directing and everything else.”
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