In This Article Cinematography and Cinematographers

  • Introduction
  • Historical Overviews
  • Studies of Individual Cinematographers
  • Cinematography and Authorship
  • Interviews with Cinematographers
  • Trade Journals
  • How-To Books

Cinema and Media Studies Cinematography and Cinematographers
by
Patrick Keating
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 March 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0165

Introduction

The craft of cinematography brings together a wide range of tasks, including camerawork, lighting, and laboratory processing. Because many of these tasks are technical, much of the literature on cinematography focuses on specific technologies developed over a hundred years of film production. This is particularly the case in books written by practicing cinematographers, because their writings often serve to explain difficult technical points to aspiring filmmakers and other amateur readers. Yet technical questions also dominate the scholarly literature on cinematography, with numerous articles on subjects like the history of deep-focus cinematography or the opportunities for composition in CinemaScope. A second area of research addresses cinematography in its industrial context, explaining the changing position of the cinematographer within a particular division of labor, both on set and in post-production. Of all industries, Hollywood has received most of the attention, as in discussions of the cinematographer’s role within the studio system or more recent analyses of the craft’s shifting status in a digital age. Third, several scholars have examined cinematography’s relationship to ideology, both by considering how a particular film might employ a technique in a culturally significant way and, more theoretically, by studying the ideological effects produced by the most basic cinematographic technologies. Cinematographic aesthetics forms a fourth area of inquiry, exploring the craft’s relationship to other arts, such as photography and theater. To be sure, many of the most ambitious and comprehensive scholarly works combine all four of these approaches. Technologies can facilitate or hinder certain artistic options, ideologies may make certain creative choices seem inevitable, and the mode of production may determine what sort of art a cinematographer may aspire to make—or even determine if the cinematographer thinks of the craft as an art at all. In keeping with the technological focus of much scholarly work, the largest section in this bibliography is devoted to cinematographic techniques, but this organizational strategy groups together works that employ and sometimes combine all four of the approaches discussed here, considering issues of technology, industry, ideology, and aesthetics.

Historical Overviews

These sources span several decades of cinematographic history. Salt 2009 and Raimondo-Souto 2007 both favor technological history, showing how innovations in camera and lab technology shaped film style. Salt, whose book is particularly thorough on early cinema, supports his arguments with extensive statistics documenting the dominant trends in editing and cinematography. Another study that employs statistical analysis is Cutting, et al. 2011, which tracks large-scale stylistic changes over a seventy-five-year period. Whereas Salt balances his technological history with passages highlighting the innovative contribution of individual directors and cinematographers, Cutting, et al. stress that the changes they identify are industry-wide and not attributable to the stylistic preferences of particular individuals. Other works adopt a more biographical approach, celebrating cinematographers as artists. This celebratory tone is particularly apparent in Glassman, et al. 2000, a documentary using interviews to tell the history from the cinematographers’ point of view. IMAGO: The Federation of European Cinematographers 2003 and Salomon 2000 both provide narrative chronologies of cinematographic history. The former is explicitly focused on Europe, while the latter expands the story to Hollywood. Unfortunately, none of the books in this section offer much insight into cinematography beyond Hollywood and Europe. Fisher and Codelli 2013 partially addresses this omission, supplementing the usual case studies with several examples from other major industries, such as China and Japan.

  • Cutting, James, Kaitlin L. Brunick, Jordan E. DeLong, Catalina Iricinschi, and Ayse Candan. “Quicker, Faster, Darker: Changes in Hollywood Film over 75 Years.” i-Perception 2 (2011): 569–576.

    DOI: 10.1068/i0441aapE-mail Citation »

    A statistical analysis of a large sample of films from 1935 to 2010, demonstrating that Hollywood films have, on average, grown darker over the years, with increasing movement within the frame. The authors suggest that these trends show filmmakers increasing their skill in capturing the audience’s attention.

  • Fisher, Bob, and Lorenzo Codelli. L’Arte della Cinematografia. Milan: Skira, 2013.

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    Over 100 case studies of films from 1914 to the present, along with profiles of their respective cinematographers. Though not without gaps, the book aspires to be global in its coverage. In Italian and English.

  • Glassman, Arnold, Todd McCarthy, and Stuart Samuels, dir. Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography, 1992. DVD. Chatsworth, CA: Image Entertainment, 2000.

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    Documentary history of cinematography, featuring interviews with prominent cinematographers and illustrated with images from influential films. The film was originally produced in 1992.

  • IMAGO: The Federation of European Cinematographers. Making Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography. New York: Harry Abrams, 2003.

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    Includes two substantial essays: Michael Leitch on the history of cinematography in Europe, and Catherine Greenhalgh on cinematography as an art. Also includes two-page analyses of 100 major films, along with numerous illustrations.

  • Raimondo-Souto, H. Mario. Motion Picture Photography: A History, 1891–1960. Trans. Herbert M. Grierson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

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    Decade-by-decade history of cinematographic technology, featuring extensive illustrations of cameras, dollies, and other equipment.

  • Salomon, Marc. Sculpteurs de lumières: Les directeurs de la photographie. Paris: Bibliotheque du film, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    Brief survey of cinematographic history in Europe and Hollywood, emphasizing the creative contributions of individual cinematographers. The second half explains the different roles of the camera and lighting crews. In French.

  • Salt, Barry. Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis. 3d ed. London: Starword, 2009.

    E-mail Citation »

    Monumental history of film technology, using statistical methods to explain the relationship between technology and style. Special attention is given to the first few decades of filmmaking; the rest of the book is organized by decade.

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