Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Passing of Robert Monks
It is with great sadness that we learnt of the unexpected death of Robert Monks on last Thursday morning.
Bob Monks, Willard Van Dyke and Walter Cronkite filming Ireland the Tear and the Smile in 1960
Bob began his film career as a technician with the National Film Institute in the late 40s. His principal job was as a travelling projectionist showing 16mm films from the educational film library in schools and halls around the country but also as a cameraman on the films the Institute was producing at the time – films about inaugurations and religious ceremonies and the annual GAA finals. After a period of training in the UK in the 1950s he worked as a highly-regarded freelance cameraman on a wide variety of feature films, television series and commercials – such as Ireland the Tear and the Smile (1961) for US television, The One Nighters (1963) which he also edited, and The Prisoner (1967) the UK TV series with Patrick MacGoohan that achieved cult status. He was rewarded for his excellence with a Gold Camera Award at the 1975 US Television Commercials Festival and was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
He was perhaps best known for his stunning cinematography on the award-winning films of Louis Marcus – films such as Fleá Ceoil, Pobal and two Academy Award-nominated short films, Páistí ag Obair and Conquest of Light. Louis has said “He is a most accomplished and versatile cameraman from whom I have learned an enormous amount”.
It is Bob filming 1957 GAA Football Finals for National Film Institute
In more recent years Bob re-engaged with the IFI through his work with Peter Canning to create the invaluable television history of Irish film production Memories in Focus (1996). Bob had a uniquely textured sense of the history of Irish film – drawn from meticulous research with the Liam O’Leary collection in the National Library and elsewhere but also based on his personal experience as a busy practitioner in the industry over many years. He was always magnanimous with his knowledge and had incredible powers of recall. Any casual question to Bob would result in an immensely detailed and authoritative answer often with brilliant gossipy asides about who lived next door to whom or what actress was the sister-in-law of what film distributor – the kind of detail that had you reaching for your notepad to jot it all down. His expertise on the visits of the first Lumiere cameramen to Ireland and on the early cinema exploits of James Joyce was particularly fascinating and lead to a series of memorable film presentations.
On his retirement as a cameraman he was funded by a group of state cultural bodies to research and compile Cinema Ireland, a CD-Rom database of Irish films and filmmakers 1896-1986, published by the National Library of Ireland. He then continued in the NLI his extensive research into the origins and early decades of Irish Filmmaking.
Bob has been a loyal and engaged IFI Council Member for many years. He has been as generous with his films which he entrusted to us for preservation as he has been with his knowledge which he shared in many long and illuminating conversations. He’ll be sadly missed.
Our condolences to Bob’s wife Ina and family.
Posted by IFI at 5:44 PM