The Art of Motion Picture Photography

Film making is a complex and intricate art. The components required to successfully create a full length feature film are numerous and tend to vary from film to film. An average film production crew consists of Script Writer(s), Producer(s), a Director, Camera Operator(s), a Cinematographer, an Editor, a Casting Director, a set Designer, a Costume Designer, Sound Department, Music Department, a Hair and Makeup team, as well as a number of actors and actresses.

Stanley Kubrick shooting 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick and crew, shooting 2001: A Space Odyssey

The history of film dates back to the early 1890’s, with the first ever paid exhibition having been screened to the public by the Lumier Brothers in 1895 at Le Grand Café, Paris. This 30 second clip depicted a train pulling into a station and it was shot at just the right angle to make it appear as if the train was coming towards the audience. Exciting stuff, right? In today’s time, it may seem about as enthralling as watching your moustache grow, but a century ago this was pretty spectacular stuff. Often covering their eyes during the screening, audiences were terrified and literally believed that the train was going to fly right out of the frame and run over them!

L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (Arrival of a train at La Ciotat)

L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (Arrival of a train at La Ciotat)

The Lumiere Brothers

The Lumiere Brothers

During this era, cinematographers (Also known as Directors of Photography), were the sole creators of the entire film production on set. There was little to no cinematic technique, usually no camera movement, and flat compositions reminiscent of the stage. Today, Cinematography is a broad combination of artistic techniques and camera technologies, which includes everything from aspect ratio, framing, lighting, camera movement to lens, focal length, and even the film/ tape stock or video/ digital storage devices used.

Early Film making: A scene from the silent film "A Trip to the Moon" (1902) by Georges Méliès.

Early Film making: A scene from the silent film “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) by Georges Méliès.

Award winning Steven Spielberg film E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), received worldwide praise for its cinematography.

Award winning Steven Spielberg film E.T The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), received worldwide praise for its cinematography.

As a self-proclaimed film aficionado, my tempestuous romance with film began during the mid to late 1990’s. This was a time when films like Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction and Silence of the Lambs, quite rapidly grew in popularity.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

I found myself hooked on the action, the horror, the suspense. This was my passion. I craved the thrill of i t. It was only in 2004 that I discovered the beauty of film as art. The spell-bindingly whimsical tale of Amélie, a Parisian waitress with a vividly overactive imagination, caught my eye as well as my heart. Besides a stellar performance by the lovely Audrey Tautou, the creative use of lighting, clever camera angles and signature close-up scenes, made this a truly memorable cinematic experience for me. This is where my love of cinematography and indie/ art films began.

So with that said, here is a list of some of my cinematographic favorites.

Amelie (2001) – Bruno Delbonnel

Audrey Tautou as Amelie

Audrey Tautou as Amelie

Amelie

Amelie

The secret life of Walter Mitty (2013) – Stuart Dryburgh

Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Sean Penn in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty

Titanic (1997) – Russel Carpenter

Exquisite lighting from a scene in Titanic

Exquisite lighting from a scene in Titanic

           Titanic

Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Anthony Dod Mantle

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire-Latika sees Jamal

Slumdog Millionaire-Latika sees Jamal

A.I (2001) – Janusz Kaminski

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) – Eric Gautier

Gael Garcia Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries

Gael Garcia Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries

Interview with the vampire (1994) – Philippe Rousselot

interview1

louis-2

Inception (2010) – Wally Pfister

Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception

Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Inception

Marion Cotilard in Inception

Marion Cotillard in Inception

Ellen Page and Leonardo Dicaprio in Inception

Ellen Page and Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception

Black Swan (2010) – Matthew Libatique

Requiem for a dream (2000) – Matthew Libatique

    

Life of Pi (2012) – Claudio Miranda

Life of Pi.2

Life of Pi

Django Unchained (2012) – Robert Richardson

Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Robert Richardson

Road to perdition (2002) – Conrad Hall

American Beauty (1999) – Conrad Hall

Reservoir Dogs (1992) – Andrzej Sekula

American Psycho (2000) – Andrzej Sekula

Pulp Fiction (1994) – Andrzej Sekula

Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Tak Fujimoto

The Sixth Sense (1999) – Tak Fujimoto

The Shining  (1980)- John Alcott

Barry Lyndon  (1975)- John Alcott

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) – Dion Beebe

Equilibrium (2002) – Dion Beebe

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – Robert Yeoman

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Robert Yeoman

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) – Robert Yeoman

The Grand Budapest Hotel  (2014) – Robert Yeoman

Gangs of New York (2002) – Michael Ballhaus

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – Michael Ballhaus

Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (2004) – Ellen Kuras

A Clockwork Orange (1971)- John Alcott

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