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A tribute to a great photographer.

Christen Hansen

New member
In the very beginning of my career as a photographer I worked at a picture agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. Some day, (back in the late fifties), I was asked to join an American filmcompany, who was shooting some scenes in Copenhagen.
In the next three days, armed with my new Leica M3, I learned a lot about the life as a pro.
On the set was a still-photographer, employed by the filmcompany, and besides his shooting, he did every thing possible to harm my working conditions. My job was to take pictures for newspapers and magazines.We never became friends. Period.
But the filmcompany had hired one more photographer. A tall guy in his best age with grey hair and a moustache. Looking somewhat aristocratic, he was charming and very kind.
His name was Gjon Mili.
Sitting on a big brown metal case, containing all his Leica gear, tripods and lots of film, he looked like a soldier at the front line, cleaning and taking care of his weapons. His job was to take photos for LIFE Magazine.
The next days I secretly studied him, while he worked with the Hollywood-actors, and I noticed the respect they gave him. Whenever possible he used a tripod, and later I understood why. He was exclusively shooting Kodachromes.
The last day we worked together, he gave me a handful of Kodachromes, and pointing at the packages he repeatedly said “twelve”, the filmspeed in ASA. I understood why the tripod was necessary.
Today, I am in the mid- seventhies, and when I am fumbling with my Canon Pro 1 and a newly bought 30D, trying to shoot RAWs, sometimes up to 1600 ASA, I think of a wonderful colleague and a deep voice saying: “twelve”.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Welcome Christen,

I read your post on Gjon Mili.

When it first appeared I knew it meant something special to me, but wasn't sure what! Now I know. I've had, in the back of my mind the idea of using disfavored Kodak SLR for Landscape and Architecture and some portraits at a speed of 6!

So "12" would be pretty aggressive. Rainer, whose architectural pictures adorn out web front pages, reminded me of how wonderful this camera is at this low speed. So, indirectly, your post has inspired me to explore.

Rainer's pictures of architecture are professional and stunning of course, but on the hidden side, his casual pictures, taken with a modest camera hand-held are amongst the most poetic I have seen.

I'm learning such a lot from everyone and i appreciate it.

Still, you owe us. Take us back on the journey to that film set. Where are the pictures, after all, if it's about movies, "show, don't tell"!


Christen Hansen

New member

The title of the movie was ”The Traitor”. Some scenes vere shot in Sweden.
But the American film company strictly collected all my films, b/w and colors. I was not allowed to develope any films. So I have never seen anything of my work. Rather frustrating.

But I was paid very well; though, Mr. Mili´s salary was about 25 times mine. He should try to get his pictures printed at TIME/LIFE, with no guarantee for that.

I don´t think the movie was paid much attention at that time, but of course there must exist stills from the shootings. At that time I bought every issue of LIFE, but I never saw Gjon Mili´s images.

I am sorry Asher, that I can´t show one single picture from the filmset. I would have loved the image of Gjon Mili sitting on his big metalcase wearing his little hat.

Regards Christen.


New member
Is it this movie: The Traitor ?

If so, the production company was Fantur Films and it was distibuted in the UK by New Realm Pictures Ltd in 1957 and Allied Artists Pictures Corp in the US in 1960. It might be possible to contact one of them to see if they have any stills in the archives that they might be willing to share.

Christen Hansen

New member

The film company was Paramount Pictures. And I was wrong on the title. The title was: "The Counterfeit Traitor", with William Holden and Lilli Palmer in the leading roles.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
Great to know. Paramount are here in los Angeles.

I'll have a try, but no way of promising.

I'm glad to have been told. There must be some of the picture somewhere.