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Herbert Alpert’s membership number was 00001, befitting the man who first suggested a Canadian Society of Cinematographers and who worked hard to achieve the dream. The Society was conceived in the lobby of a film studio at Woodbine and Danforth in east-end Toronto, a former movie theatre which was common ground for several cameramen who came to believe in the need for a distinctive organization dedicated to their special craft.
That was in 1957, and the idea quickly caught on. Alpert, an American born Nov. 26, 1918, in New Haven, Conn., was appointed the first pro-tem president. Forty years later, in 1997, he was presented the Fuji Award (now the President’s Award) in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to the Society.
Alpert passed away at his Toronto home on Feb. 20, 2012, at the age of 93. His earliest experiences with the movies were the black-and-white silent flicks of the 1920s, which led him into the film industry as the “talkies” and colour film production caught on. His film career spanned almost every era and technological advance of the medium, from sound to 3D to digital video.
One of his best-known films as director of photography was the 1961 3D Canadian horror/thriller The Mask.
He told the CSC on the occasion of the Society’s 50th anniversary that “when I first came to Canada in 1955 on a freelance assignment from the highly competitive world of New York City, two important events occurred. I met my wife, and secondly I observed the early stirring of a film industry. It seemed obvious to me that there would be a need for a professional organization to educate and promote the interest of the cinematographer.
"So, in 1957, with the help of some others, the CSC took root and began its journey. The purpose of this non-profit professional and fraternal organization is to promote cinematography in Canada, to develop the mutual interest of professional cinematographers and to provide the membership with technical information to enable the improvement of their professional status.
"It is most gratifying to see the present state of the CSC with its vigorous programs and outstanding membership, but no organization can stand on its laurels. It must continue to adapt, take risks and anticipate in order to move forward into the 21st century with confidence and know-how. I am very confident that the challenges of the future will be met with exciting and innovative programs and ideas.”
Alpert was granted membership in the American Society of Cinematographers in 1964.