motion picture photography: Prominent Cinematographers

Cinematography developed as a separate craft very early in film history; the first prominent cinematographer was Billy Bitzer, who worked on Griffith's films. The best cinematographers develop styles that carry over to the films of the many directors with whom they work. Occasionally, a collaboration between a director and cinematographer will produce a series of films of unusually consistent photographic quality. The foremost American cameramen from the first half of the 20th cent. include Gregg Toland (Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane), Charles Rosher (Sunrise, The Yearling), James Wong Howe (The Thin Man, The Rose Tattoo, Picnic, Hud), Lee Garmes (Morocco, Shanghai Express, Duel in the Sun), and Karl Freund (The Last Laugh, Metropolis, Camille).

The French directors of the New Wave of the 1960s, including Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, François Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard, revolutionized photographic technique by using newly invented smaller cameras and faster film stocks requiring less deliberate lighting techniques. These films feature a rawer style, more usually associated with documentary, that attempts to present an unmediated naturalistic narrative. The basic methodology was carried back into a documentary movement loosely grouped under the cinéma vérité rubric. Hollywood filmmakers adapted these methods, but continued to strive for a photographically perfect environment, in which the audience is never made aware of the mechanics of producing a movie.

Some prominent cinematographers of the last 20 years include Sven Nykvist (Persona and virtually every film directed by Ingmar Bergman after 1960), Gordon Willis (The Godfather, Annie Hall), Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Sheltering Sky), Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, McCabe and Mrs. Miller) and Nestor Almendros (The Story of Adele H., Places in the Heart).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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