How many filmmakers can say that they helped revive a young Martin Scorsese’s career? German cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus, was among those few; his talents helped inject Scorsese’s early work with the vigor and energy we’ve come to know so well. But even before working with Scorsese on films like Goodfellas and After Hours, Ballhaus had already established himself as a gifted and well-respected director of photography through his many collaborations with the renowned German director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. But what is it about Ballhaus’s style that’s so iconic? Perhaps the biggest common denominator is that he defied definition. He adapted his vision to each film’s unique circumstances, generating one-of-a-kind imagery each time. One touch he is particularly known for is his camera movement: Ballhaus’s camera was always in motion, and each movement told its own story. In the newest installment of our series, Language of the Image, we honor those stories and remember the work of the late Michael Ballhaus, a cinematic presence who will be sorely missed.

Be sure to head over to the previous installments of our series, “Language of the Image,” and explore the work of directors of photography like Maryse Alberti, Wally Pfister, and Yves Bélanger. For even more on cinematography, peruse our list of essential women cinematographers, or our profile of the great Roger Deakins.