Camerimage Honoree Jessica Lange Tries to Balance Acting and Photography

Peter Caranicas

The world knows Jessica Lange as an actress.

And not just any actress. Lange has won two Oscars, one in 1983 for a supporting role in “Tootsie” and another in 1995 for a lead role in “Blue Sky.” She’s also taken home Emmys for “Gray Gardens” and “American Horror Story.” And earlier this year, she won a Tony for the role of Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” making her the 22nd member of the so-called Triple Crown of Acting (Helen Hayes was the first).

And just on Saturday, Lange received this year’s Krzysztof Kieslowski Award for Acting at the 24th annual Camerimage Film Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

The world knows less about Lange’s extensive career as a photographer, but that side of her life drew big crowds in this small Polish city where Sunday she opened an exhibit of her work at the bwa municipal gallery.

In fact, Lange has published books of her photos, including “50 Photographs,” with an introduction by Patti Smith. She has exhibited in multiple cities; the collection on display in Bydgoszcz, in a show titled “Unseen,” brings together 135 photos taken over the last 20 years.

As the rare thesp who’s also a photographer, has Lange ever given the cinematographers of her films any advice? “Oh God, no,” she laughs. “I might say, where’s the China ball, but that’s it.” DPs of Lange’s films include Owen Roizman (“Tootsie”), Philippe Rousselot (“Big Fish”), and Sven Nykvist (“The Postman Always Rings Twice”).

While she has a passion for photography, Lange told Variety she regrets that the demands of her acting career don’t allow enough time for it. “I worked straight through the [Broadway] play, had a month or two off, then went straight to Ryan Murphy’s new show,” she said, referring to FX’s upcoming limited series “Feud,” where she plays Joan Crawford opposite Susan Sarandon’s Bette Davis.

Asked how she prepped for the Crawford role, Lange said she read all the books about the late actress and saw all her films, but in the end Crawford remains “very mysterious. She’s a bit of a cypher. But as an actor, I’m not trying to just imitate her.”

Her plans after the wrap of “Feud?” “I’ll take some time off to work on my next photography project,” Lange says. She describes it as a road trip that will take her down a specific highway close to the Mississippi River, from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.

(Pictured above: Jessica Lange at the Tony Awards)

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