NEW YORK -- Morris Engel, a noted photographer and pioneer in independent filmmaking who was best known for his Oscar-nominated 1953 film, ''Little Fugitive," died of cancer Saturday at his Manhattan apartment, said his daughter, Mary Engel. He was 86.
Mr. Engel was born in Brooklyn in 1918, and first studied photography as a teenager.
He had his first show in 1939, worked briefly for the newspaper PM, and covered the 1944 invasion of Normandy as a Navy photographer.
In postwar years he became an established figure in commercial and magazine photography before branching out into moviemaking.
His ''Little Fugitive," about a 7-year-old boy who runs away after mistakenly thinking he has killed his older brother, was an innovative work of cinematic realism. It cost $30,000 and was shot with a hand-held 35-millimeter camera that Mr. Engel and a colleague designed. The film won the Silver Lion award at the 1953 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar in 1954. It was widely credited with inspiring other independent filmmakers, including directors John Cassavetes and Francois Truffaut, to develop projects that went against the grain of Hollywood.
Truffaut, a French film critic, said he borrowed themes and filming techniques from Mr. Engel's work for his 1959 film, ''The 400 Blows," which was credited with launching French cinema's New Wave.
Mr. Engel, with his late wife, photographer Ruth Orkin, made two other independent films, ''Lovers and Lollipops" in 1955 and ''Weddings and Babies" in 1958, both dealing with family and domestic themes.