I believe that we are very quietly going through a golden age of cinematography. Simple as that. I spend more time talking to DPs than just about anything else in my business, though, mostly because they have the best stories and engage, for me, in the most fulfilling ways. So maybe I have a touch of bias. But when I look out across the industry, I'm gobsmacked by the talent on display, worthy heirs to a kingdom collectively forged by the titans: Shamroy, Surtees, Hall, Milner, Toland, Stradling, Storaro, Willis, Ruttenberg, etc.
So it occurred to me: Why not showcase the most exciting names out there today? Subjective, of course, and I kept the list pretty big to be fairly inclusive. But I had no trouble filling it out, either. There are so many cinematographers out there who seem to represent the promise of exciting, bold and innovative cinema in the years to come. The filmmakers will continue to receive the attention, but their right hand men and women will be just as pivotal as the concept of visual storytelling, as ever, continues to morph.
There are, however, some key names not on this list that bear mentioning. Guys like Dion Beebe, Janusz Kaminski, Robert Richardson, Vilmos Zsigmond, etc., continue to do their thing and I respect and admire them immensely. But they've sort of found their groove and maybe we just take their talent for granted at this stage. Robert D. Yeoman's work on “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is absolutely exquisite, perhaps his best to date. But his on-going collaboration with Wes Anderson has become a very specific thing with little variation. (They're great at their tune, though; ditto Dick Pope and Mike Leigh.)
You also have to give it up for Christopher Doyle, always a volatile presence, and I quite like the promise of others like Guillermo Navarro, Jody Lee Lipes, Roman Vasyanov, Ben Richardson, Tim Orr, Frank DeMarco, Robbie Ryan and Manuel Alberto Claro, just to name a few. Meanwhile, I'm presuming Wally Pfister has left this racket completely behind for directing, so he was not included.
Finally, a note: There are no women on this list. (There was originally an attempt to showcase them, but it was admittedly a bit ham-fisted and was met with some disagreement that I understand.) As I began putting this list together, there were certainly a number of women in the mix – Anna Foerster, Ellen Kuras, Natasha Braier – but depressingly few. The unfortunate fact is the discipline continues to be a bit of a boy's club; there are only 12 female members of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). That's good for just 3% of the membership.
And last thing here: Rest in peace, Harris Savides. We miss you.
With that, let's dive in. These are the names that have me stoked for the medium in the years to come. Who are your favorites?
(Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for our 8th annual “Top 10 Shots of the Year” column.)