Ross Lowell, inventor of gaffer’s tape, has passed away

It brings us great sadness to report that the founder of Lowel-Light and inventor of gaffer’s tape has passed away at the age of 92.

Let’s take a moment to remember Ross Lowell’s life and impactful career:

His life

Ross Lowell was born on July 10th in 1926 in New York City. His career as a photographer began in the US Navy during World War II. After the war was over, Lowell began to study cinematography at University of California, Los Angeles in 1948. Once he finished his schooling, he worked in the film and television industry.

Throughout his career, he worked on dozens of documentaries, short films and TV commercials. In 1980, Lowell was awarded the Academy Award for Technical Achievement for his lighting system. His short film named “Oh Brother, My Brother” was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Short Film Category. And in 1992, he wrote a book about lighting: “Matters of Light and Depth.”

The invention of Lowel-Light and gaffer’s tape

By the end of the 50s, documentary director Stephen E. Fleischman tasked Ross Lowell to make a lightweight lighting system for a TV show. This is when the first Lowel-Light was created. Lowell joined a ball-and-clamp system to an RFL bulb. On the back of the light, the system had a metal plate that allowed it to be attached to practically any surface.

He also developed a tape to attach the light. He wanted to create a tape that could last for a long time without leaving residue if it had to be removed. Inspired by Johnson & Johnson’s heating ducts, he decided to use Permacel adhesive. This resulted in gaffer’s tape, now ubiquitous on sets around the world.

Lowell went on to found Lowel-Light, which offers a large range of halogen fixtures and accessories, like the Tota-Light, Omni-Light, and the DP Light.

Ross Lowell created innovative products that crews use every day. He’s made the lives of filmmakers so much easier, and we’re sure his contributions will always be remembered.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

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