#1: From documentary [2010]

#2: 1993





Born: 13 November 1937, Kraków, Poland.

Education: [Architecture]; PWSFTviT, Lódz [graduated in 1964].

Career: Spent his early childhood in a Siberian labor camp where his family was deported in 1939. The family was allowed to return to Kraków in 1947 where he completed his primary education and began the study of architecture. During that period he developed an interest in photography and eventually in film, which led him to apply, and receive acceptance at the film school in Lódz. After graduating with a Master's degree in cinematography, he worked on several film productions in Poland. In 1966, he traveled to Montréal, Canada, on a tourist visa at the urging of his father who wanted him to see the world. He rode a Greyhound bus from Montréal to Manhattan and decided to stay in New York for a while. He subsequently got a job as a driver for a documentary production company. About three months later, he got a break when a cinematographer didn't show up for work. He segued from shooting documentaries to commercials and earned his first narrative credit for 'Midnight Cowboy' in 1968.

Ph numerous commercials.

Directed the feature film 'Twisted' [1985].

Awards: ICG/Eastman Kodak Lifetime Achievement Award [2003]; Plus Camerimage Special Award for Polish Cinematographer for Immense Contribution to the Art of Film [2007].

Adam Holender: 'My father was a judge who was part of the capitalist system in Poland. In the summer of 1939, when I was not quite three years old, my father moved us to my grandmother's house in the eastern part of the country knowing that things were brewing on the western border with Germany. What my father didn't know was that a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War, Stalin and Hitler made a pact of friendship. Stalin wanted the eastern part of Poland. He bombed it and my father was arrested along with my mother and myself and we were sent to a Siberian war camp. And that is where I grew up. I returned to Poland in 1947.'

After finishing High School, Holender began architectural studies in his hometown of Kraków. The interest in photography began with a summer job in which he would assess the buildings' architecture, mostly churches, and would decide which structures needed to be restored on the government's behalf.

'We had to draw the plans, measure the foundations and the roofs, and also photograph the buildings. I realized that I got interested in photography more than I got interested in architecture. […] My father liked the fact that I was studying architecture and engineering. When I applied to film school, I did it in secret. I didn't tell my parents. When I got a notice of acceptance there was a moment that I had to tell them. So, I sat at dinner and I told them what had happened. My father looked at me and quietly said, "Well, that's too bad" and left it at that.'

As an only child, Holender tended to his aging father. After his father's death, he decided to see the world and left Poland in 1966. He arrived in Canada by boat and took a Greyhound bus for New York. At first, lodgings were found at the Excelsior Hotel on West 81st Street for $6 or $7 per night. Soon a very clean studio apartment, a fifth floor walk up on Columbus and 71st was secured at $75 per month.

With an unrelenting determination and the skills of a cinematographer, Adam Holender's first job was found at a documentary film company: driving the company station wagon and loading it. After several weeks of taxiing around tripods and film stock, the moment of truth arrived. A client insisted upon additional shots while the cinematographer was not around. Holender was approached by the producers to compose and properly expose the shots. And the rest is cinema history.

'It took quite a bit of time to get my feet into professional feature productions. I did features in Poland, but all I did here was documentaries and television commercials. […] 'Midnight Cowboy' was a terrific break. Of course, I wasn't aware that it was going to be a successful film. Apparently, they were looking for someone in New York and somebody they knew recommended me and called Roman Polanski to verify my credentials. Afterwards, I was asked to come in to shoot a screen test on a small stage in downtown New York.

[…] The cameras were a problem. The crew came from a different era and different continent than I did. I wanted to use a reflex camera. They were used to big old-fashioned Mitchell cameras with a rack-over system. It took me a bit of convincing to the camera operator and focus puller that we should have a reflex camera. In the beginning we compromised; we had both. When I wanted to do certain long lens stuff, we would use a reflex camera. I was used to soft lights, everybody here used very hard, very powerful arc lights. I had to convince the technicians to get soft lights or to soften the other lights.

At times there were moments of friction. In general, they were extremely gracious about accepting someone that was 29 yrs old. They were all older. Basically allowing me to tell them what to do. No wonder at times they didn't like me.' [From an article by Franco Frassetti in 'Films in Review', May 27th, 2009.]



Na sniegu [Zbigniew Tolloczko; short] c.asst (+ asst dir); ph: Janusz Lomski


Lampa/The Lamp [Roman Polanski; short/8m] c.asst; ph: Krzysztof Romanowski


Czwarty do bridza [Edward Goldberg] b&w; short/2m


Improwizacja/Trzej muzykanci/Picasso's Three Musicians [Andrzej Ramlau & Adam Holender] c; anim/5m


Lapac zlodzieja/Catch a Thief [Krzysztof Zanussi] b&w; short/6m


Wyszedl z domu i nie wrócil [Stefan Bratkowski] b&w; short/10m


Masza chlawner/Drzazga [Mariusz Chwedczuk] b&w; short/330mtr


Za oknem [Wladyslaw Ikonomow] b&w; short/8m


Zabawa/Foul Play [Adam Holender & Andrzej Ramlau] ?


Studenci/Students [Krzysztof Zanussi] b&w; short/14m




Midnight Cowboy [John Schlesinger] c; + co-superv 25th anniversary restoration


Puzzle of a Downfall Child [Jerry Schatzberg] c


Shut Up... I'm Crying [Robert Siegler] c; short/20m


Moonwalk One [Theo Kamecke] c; doc/96m; cph: Urs Furrer, James Signorelli, Jeri Sopanen, Ed Lynch, Alexander Hammid, a.o.


J.W. Coop [Cliff Robertson] c; co-2uc; ph: Frank Stanley


The Panic in Needle Park [Jerry Schatzberg] c


The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds [Paul Newman] c


Man on a Swing [Frank Perry] c


If Ever I See You Again [Joe Brooks] c; addph: Don Sweeney


[Right] with Jerry Schatzberg - "The Seduction of Joe Tynan"



The Seduction of Joe Tynan/The Senator [Jerry Schatzberg] c


Promises in the Dark [Jerome Hellman] c


Simon [Marshall Brickman] c; addph: Dick Kratina & Fred Schuler


The Idolmaker [Taylor Hackford] c


The Boy Who Could Fly [Nick Castle] c; cph: Steven Poster (brought in 6 weeks into filming); efx ph: Neil Krepela; vfx ph: Peter Romano; optical ph: Charles Cowles & Alan Harding


Street Smart [Jerry Schatzberg] c


To Kill a Priest/Zabic ksiedza [Agnieszka Holland] c


Sea of Love [Harold Becker] c; addph; ph: Ronnie Taylor


The Dream Team [Howard Zieff] c


Fresh [Boaz Yakin] c; 2uc: Bruce MacCallum & Bill Coleman


Smoke [Wayne Wang] c


Blue in the Face/Brooklyn Boogie [Wayne Wang & Paul Auster] c; ph in two 3-day shoots (July & October)


Grace of My Heart [Allison Anders] c; 2uc; ph: Jean-Yves Escoffier


I'm Not Rappaport [Herb Gardner] c; addph: Ralf D. Bode; aph: Don Sweeney


Wide Awake [M. Night Shyamalan] p/c; addph: Madhu Ambat


8 Heads in a Duffel Bag [Tom Schulman] c


A Price Above Rubies [Boaz Yakin] c


Strange Hearts/Rat in the Can/Roads to Riches [Michelle Gallagher] c


Rollerball [John McTiernan] p/c; uncred addph (reshoots); ph (2000): Steve Mason; remake of film (1974, Norman Jewison; ph: Douglas Slocombe)


Shortcut to Happiness/The Devil and Daniel Webster [Alec Baldwin] c


Stateside/Sinners [Reverge Anselmo] p/c; cph: Tom Priestley Jr.; 2uc: Petr Hlinomaz


Carlito's Way - Rise to Power [Michael Bregman] b&w-c


Vengeance: A Love Story [Harold Becker] pre-production; status unknown


The Art of Dying; the Act of Living [E.B. Hughes & David Von Roehm] pre-production; scheduled to start filming in 2016 with ph William J. Murray




The Other Side of Hell/The Next Howling Wind [Jan Kadar] tvm


The Shadow Box [Paul Newman] tvm


Threesome [Lou Antonio] tvm


The Best Times [ep #1 'Making Out' dir by Edward Zwick] 6-part series; other ph: W. Keith Jurgensen; for NBC-tv


Falcone [pilot + ep #2 'Tightrope' dir by Gary Fleder] 9-part series, 2000; other ph: Steve Danyluk (7 ep)


Mary & Rhoda [Barnet Kellman] tvm


 MISCELLANEOUS [e,g, as director]


Bitwa o kozi dwór [Wadim Berestowski] still ph; ph: Tadeusz Wiezan


Mam tu swój dom [Julian Dziedzina] co-c.asst; ph: Tadeusz Wiezan


Wiano/Dowry [Jan Lomnicki] co-c.op; ph: Kurt Weber


Wilczy bilet [Antoni Bohdziewicz] co-c.asst; ph: Romuald Kropat 


Wizyta u królów [Jan Rybkowski; tvm/30m] c.op; ph: Krzysztof Winiewicz


Czterej pancerni i pies [Konrad Nalecki; 21-part tv-series] co-c.asst (ep #1-8); ph: Romuald Kropat


Twisted [dir; feature] ph: Alexander Gruszynski; addph: Glenn Kershaw