How does a film come to look the way it does? And what influence does the look of a film have on our reaction to it? The role of cinematography, as both a science and an art, is often forgotten in the chatter about acting, directing, and budgets. The successful cinematographer must have a keen creative eye, as well as expert knowledge about the constantly expanding array of new camera, film, and lighting technologies. Without these skills at a director's disposal, most movies quickly fade from memory. Cinematography focuses on the highlights of this art and provides the first comprehensive overview of how the field has rapidly evolved, from the early silent film era to the digital imagery of today.

The essays in this volume introduce us to the visual conventions of the Hollywood style, explaining how these first arose and how they have subsequently been challenged by alternative aesthetics. In order to frame this fascinating history, the contributors employ a series of questions about technology (how did new technology shape cinematography?), authorship (can a cinematographer develop styles and themes over the course of a career?), and classicism (how should cinematographers use new technology in light of past practice?). Taking us from the hand-cranked cameras of the silent era to the digital devices used today, the collection of original essays explores how the art of cinematography has been influenced not only by technological advances, but also by trends in the movie industry, from the rise of big-budget blockbusters to the spread of indie films.

The book also reveals the people behind the camera, profiling numerous acclaimed cinematographers from James Wong Howe to Roger Deakins. Lavishly illustrated with over 50 indelible images from landmark films, Cinematography offers a provocative behind-the-scenes look at the profession and a stirring celebration of the art form. Anyone who reads this history will come away with a fresh eye for what appears on the screen because of what happens behind it.


Patrick Keating

The craft of cinematography brings together a range of distinct but complementary tasks, such as the planning of the lighting, the composition of the film frame, the orchestration of the camera movement, and the manipulation of the negative in the laboratory. Through these tasks, the cinematographer, in close collaboration with the director and other crew members, adds structure and nuance to a film’s visual style. For decades, cinematographers have insisted on the artistic nature of their craft. Back in 1931, James Wong Howe wrote, “With the early films, lighting merely meant getting enough light upon the actors to permit photography; today it means laying a visual, emotional foundation upon which the director and his players must build.” Decades later, Vittorio Storaro proposed an even bolder definition: “Photography means light-writing, cinematography means writing with light in movement. Cinematographers are authors of photography, not directors of photography. We are not merely using technology to tell someone else’s thought, because we are also using our own emotion, our culture, and our inner being.” For both cinematographers, cinematography is an expressive art, whether the goal is to express the shifting moods of the story, as in Howe, or to express a more personal set of concerns, as in Storaro. This admittedly romantic definition of cinematography must be contextualized, qualified by our awareness that this is after all an industrial craft, made within . . .

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