There has been a long-standing rumor that the iconic Laura Palmer Homecoming photo from Twin Peaks was Sheryl Lee's actual photo from High School. However, that is simply not the case. Photographer Kimberly Wright was behind the lens and with her help, we set the story straight. Our friend Brad Dukes gave her a call...
Brad: How did you first get involved with Twin Peaks?
Kimberly: I met David Lynch because I went to High School with his daughter at a high school for the arts in Michigan called Interlochen Arts Academy. His daughter is Jennifer Lynch, also an amazing, talented human being and she and I were good friends there. When we graduated from there, a lot of the parents showed up. I had a show up of some of my photographs and paintings at the time and David Liked my work. A couple of years later I was in L.A. and he invited me to shoot stills on a short film he was doing in collaboration with a company in France. It was called 'The Cowboy and the Frenchman'. So I shot stills on that, it was my first experience shooting stills on a set and it was good fun. Several months later I was up in San Francisco going to school at the Art Institute there and David gave me a call and said hey I'm shooting this T.V. pilot up in Seattle, would you like to come shot stills? Believe it or not I said let my think about it! (Laughs) I thought about for a few days and decided to go ahead and do it and it was definitely a big turning point for me because then I went into that career.
Brad: So from February to April, where you up there the entire time?
Kimberly: I was.
Brad: What comes back? What memories still stick out the most from that time?
Kimberly: You know...It's pretty fuzzy at this point! (Laughs) It was a lot of fun. Everybody, the cast was amazing, I just remember really enjoying the environment and working with David, he's quirky, he's really great guy. It was just an amazing experience. I was young and it was all very new to me. You know I didn't particularly have a goal to work on films at all, it just sort of happened, so I was just sort of rolling with it and wow this is fun and it was! It was a lot of fun. And also just not really knowing what I was doing, because I just so new to the whole experience.
Brad: Between the cast and the crew, there are some really interesting people. Who did you enjoy hanging out with or who did you bond with the most up there?
Kimberly: Gosh...I really enjoyed Kyle MacLachlan a lot. He's just really a great person. Sheryl Lee is also a lovely lovely human being and I did bond with her a bit. I did photos of her long after Twin Peaks, we stayed in touch for awhile.
Brad: Okay, here's something I have to ask about. Frank Silva was one of the set dressers and he actually turned into a cast member, obviously Killer BOB.
Brad: Did you hang out with Frank or did you get to witness his transition from crew member to demon on screen?
Kimberly: Yes I did, I mean Frank was definitely someone I hung out with a bit and also a really great guy. I think his transition to that character happened when I wasn't around, I mean I knew about it because we were friends and...wasn't that in one of the later episodes?
Brad: Well, it was a couple of weeks into filming and they had the script but circumstances happened and Frank got cast. I don't think it was planned until...
Kimberly: It was not planned and maybe I was there, my memory is not the best unfortunately. It's been a very long time. Yes, but for sure that was not planned and that was just a fun thing for Frank and that's how David functions. He has an idea and rolls with it.
Brad: Okay, so I've got to ask about probably the most iconic photo that came out of Twin Peaks, the homecoming stills of Sheryl Lee. Take me back to that day. What was that like and what sticks out in your memory?
Kimberly: Well that's probably one of my most clear memories because it was actually really a most challenging moment for me! When David asked me to do it, this being my first professional job, I was very much a fine art photographer, didn't have a lot of experience doing studio shots, but you know, I managed to pull it off, obviously I was just like okay, make it look like a high school prom photo, but I also had the desire to make Sheryl look as beautiful as she is and was at the time and so I wanted to make sure she looked good. Back then there was no digital photography, so it was all film and we had to wait for the film to come back from the lab. I worked with contact sheets and small prints that I would show David on a regular basis. We would look at photos together. So with that particular photo, and this I remember really clearly, (Laughs) because I was really traumatized afterwards! I got the photos back from the lab and I was looking for him and when I found him, he was sitting in this car, I think he was talking with someone on one of those giant cell phones, he was definitely in the middle of something and I was sort of waiting to show him the photo. So when I showed it to him he was distracted. So he didn't say anything and I thought he didn't like the photos...or something. I don't remember what. I remember thinking oh my God, I was just so... (laughs) concerned! And later I found out he actually did love them, he thought they were great, so that was a huge relief!
Brad: Do you remember when and where you shot these photos of Sheryl?
Kimberly: I set up, It was very early on in the shoot, like in the first week or two I would say. I just set up a backdrop somewhere. When you do a shoot like that out on a film set, you work with either prop people or some of the carpenters, whomever, gaffers, whoever you need to help you with setting things up, and so, I think I must have had somebody provide a backdrop that would look like a school photo. I do remember lighting it to also look like a school photo. I just got some lights from somebody on the lighting crew and set it up somewhere, I don't remember where but it was definitely in a building somewhere where we were shooting. That's how it is when you're working a film set, you're just kind of making do each day when you're asked to do these type of things.
Brad: That photo is so central to Twin Peaks, I almost imagine David Lynch there that day completely picky about every little thing, but it's cool that it was just thrown together...
Kimberly: It was thrown together and he was not there for the shoot. You know, It's a homecoming photo so it's in some way a very basic thing, like I said, I wanted the lighting to look good so I made the lighting nice and soft and I wanted her to look beautiful even though school photos can look weird, I still wanted her to look beautiful and she did. She was easy to photograph! (laughs)
Brad: Is it strange for you...I mean the other week, I was in Hot Topic in the mall with my wife and I saw that picture on a t-shirt. Is it weird...
Brad: ...what is it like to know it's out there and it's still this huge thing?
Kimberly: It is very strange actually to see it every now and then, pop up you know? Wow, definitely.
Brad: Do you remember how many shots of Sheryl you took that day? I'm just curious.
Kimberly: I really don't remember. Probably not that many, I was shooting in a medium format film...I don't even remember if I had a 35mm film camera at that point but I might have. But I was doing a lot of medium format which is pretty unusual for film stills unless you're shooting a poster or something but that's just what I was working with. With that you only get a few shots per roll and so I think I only shot maybe two rolls of film. It's been so long and I don't have those photos, I handed those over to the production company many many years ago. I saw in the questions that there are rumors that they are lost and I would be mortified if that were the case. I hope that's not the case.
Brad: I hope not either. I mean, it's very hard to say. They used that photo throughout the production, so, I bet they're locked up in David Lynch's house or something.
Kimberly: They very well could be, and they should be. I would hope that he has them, I haven't spoken to him in awhile and when I did I certainly wasn't asking him about the Twin Peaks photo (laughs).
Brad: It's strange because I actually interviewed Sheryl for Twin Peaks Archive a few years ago and I asked her, that photo is so cool, did you do that for the show or was it for your homecoming and she said I actually don't remember so It's really cool to hear about this.
Kimberly: (Laughs) All of our memories are just whitewashed at this point!
Brad: So you were up there in Twin Peaks for about two months, when that was over, did you keep continue to work with the production when they moved down to California?
Kimberly: I did not. I don't remember why but a lot of the time it's just scheduling, I might have been doing something else or who knows.
Brad: Did you watch the show when it came on?
Kimberly: I don't think I did. At that point I wasn't much into television, I don't even think I had a T.V. back then. I havn't watched a lot of the movies I've worked on actually.
Brad: Oh wow.
Kimberly: Most of them. You know when you're working on a film...and I remember clips because I would often go to dailies which is where the producers and director and different people would go and review what they shot that day, so I did see a lot of clips and I might have caught one episode somewhere randomly but I never watched it.
Brad: So if you had to guess, how many photos do you think you took while you were in Washington?
Kimberly: Oh...Several thousand?
Brad: And what happened to all these photos?
Kimberly: Like I said, I handed all those over to David's production company, which was probably a couple of years later, so after we were done shooting, I had all the photos and then I connected with David somewhere in post production in L.A. and I actually spent quite a bit of time with him going through the photos and editing photos which was really fun. So at that point I had the photos for awhile and then I just remember handing them over to his production company for safe keeping.
Brad: Any photos stick out as some of your personal favorites aside from the Homecoming photo?
Kimberly: Well, the Homecoming photo and the one where she was on the shore of the lake. That photo has been used a lot. Even though she's dead, I know she's not (laughs) because I was there and she was very much alive. I think it's a very beautiful photo of her.
She looks really beautiful and I remember that's another moment from the film that I remember really well. I remember they were shooting it, she was cold, it was cold and she was uncomfortable and I had to take those photos really quickly. But I remember David just asking me to just in there and get some photos.
Kimberly also shot stills on Wild at Heart. You can check out some of those photos on her website. Special thanks to Kimberly for taking the time to talk to us. Thanks also to Brad Dukes for the talking!