Oscar Winner Ross Lowell, Who Invented Gaffer Tape, Dies at 92
In a discussion with The Hollywood Reporter, Ross Lowell's son Josh revealed that his father died at home in Pound Ridge, New York, on Jan. 10
Ross Lowell — a cinematographer, photographer, Oscar-winning lighting designer, author, entrepreneur and the inventor of gaffer tape — has died, according to multiple outlets.
In a discussion with The Hollywood Reporter, his son Josh Lowell revealed that his father died at home in Pound Ridge, New York, on Jan. 10. He was 92.
Lowell’s long list of achievements in the film industry ran the gamut — his biggest achievement being winning the Oscar for Technical Achievement in 1980, for his efficient, compact lighting-equipment system.
He was also known for his work as cinematographer on the short film A Year Toward Tomorrow, which won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1967, as well as his involvement in a number of other short films like The Rock; While I Run This Race; Operation Dirty Dozen and Oh Brother, My Brother.
During his time in the film industry, Lowell saw multiple opportunities for improvement, inventing a mounting system for lights that used a ball-and-clamp technique and eventually founding the Lowel-Light company in 1959.
“It worked surprisingly well, but there were too many little parts, and the suction cup was less than a completely reliable mounting device,” Lowell explained to American Cinematographer magazine in 1979, according to THR.
“That might have been the end of it, except that I was intrigued by the challenge of trying to incorporate all of the functions of the accessories into the basic light,” he continued, THR reports. “Mounting the socket and swivel onto a thin, resilient plate enabled the light to go behind moldings. End of the putty knife accessory. It also provided a base on which to balance the unit on floors and tables.”
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He would go on to create gaffer tape, which began with the adhesive from Johnson & Johnson‘s Permacel tape (a.k.a. duct tape) and incorporated a different backing of silver fabric, making it more reliable for metal fastening.
The tape became well loved in the film industry and beyond for its ability to resist heat, keep things in place for a long amount of time and not leave a residue when removed.
On top of his impact on the film industry through his lighting-related inventions and cinematography involvement, Lowell produced a book titled Matters of Light & Depth, which offered his own related advice and included the work of other professionals in photography, directing and more.
Lowell is survived by sons Brett, Evan and Josh, as well as a daughter and his wife, Marilyn.