German-born Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus passed away earlier today at age 81.

By any standard measurement, Ballhaus lived a full life, in terms of years and profession, in which he not only pursued his artistic passion but also built it into a legendary career. By an industry measure, his life was even more exceptional. Ballhaus lensed the work of directors like Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. But perhaps nothing speaks more of his life measured against his own terms than a wordless inspection of the quality of Ballhaus’ art.

Ballhaus had a way of capturing people, not just in portraiture, but in observation of the space between them, their reactions to one another, expressions and body language. It’s an element of visual storytelling we often lose, or ascribe too determinedly and thoughtlessly to the screen actors rather than the creators of the screen. But, quietly, Ballhaus was one of the best at capturing this visual language of honesty in humanity.

To honor and remember Michael Ballhaus, we’ve collected ten of his best frames to commemorate a life well lived in service to the art of film.

Thank you, Mr. Ballhaus, for letting us watch you watch us.

The Departed, 2006, Warner Bros.

Working Girl, 1988, 20th Century Fox

Under the Cherry Moon, 1986, Warner Bros.

The Last Temptation of Christ, 1988, Universal Pictures

After Hours, 1985, Warner Bros.

Broadcast News, 20th Century Fox, 1987

Gangs of New York, 2002, Miramax

Goodfellas, 1990, Warner Bros.

The Age of Innocence, 1994, Columbia Pictures

The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989, 20th Century Fox

Featured Image: 20th Century Fox