12 Essential Women Cinematographers
Why don't women behind the camera receive the attention they deserve?
With Rachel Morrison's landmark nomination for Best Cinematography we would like to present again Fandor's list of Twelve Essential Female Cinematographers. Congratulations Rachel Morrison!
Go ahead, name a cinematographer. Got one? Chances are you picked somebody named Emmanuel Lubezki, Roger Deakins, or Robert Richardson Possibly Robert Elswit, Wally Pfister, Janusz Kaminski, or Hoyte van Hoytema. Or Gregg Toland, Jeff Cronenweth, Rodrigo Prieto. Long story short, you probably did not chose a woman. Why is that? The following video chronicles some notable work by twelve essential women cinematographers. Have a watch and rack your brain trying to figure out why these women do not receive the attention they deserve.
One fact is that there simply are not that many women cinematographers working in Hollywood. And those who've been able to break into the industry do not seem to garner the fame and attention that male cinematographers do. In the entire history of the Academy Awards, Best Cinematography remains the only category never to have had a female nominee.
Looking through a list of films shot by women, this is most certainly not due to a lack of merit. Films like Eve's Bayou (1997), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and The Rover (2014) were not only shot by women, but are some of the most visually beautiful films of the past twenty years. The fact of the matter is that women cinematographers seem to be largely confined to shooting small-budget, low-profile films that just do not attract enough attention.
In 1980, Brianne Murphy served as Director of Photography on Anne Bancroft's directorial debut, the Dom DeLuise comedy Fatso, and became the first woman to ever shoot a major studio film. Since then, women have slowly begun to make their mark on the industry, especially in the lower-budget indie circuit. Ellen Kuras was an indie circuit trailblazer for women cinematographers in the late nineties, working with Spike Lee and laying the groundwork for women to take on edgy, controversial projects. Recent indie favorites, like The Skeleton Twins (2013) and Dope (2015), were both visually memorable films shot by women.
Outside of the indie circuit, Maryse Alberti recently made waves shooting a big-budget studio film, the critically acclaimed box office hit Creed (2015). But this came after almost two decades of working on low-budget, edgier films, such as Velvet Goldmine (1998) and The Wrestler (2008). Rachel Morrison, the cinematographer behind Fruitvale Station (2013) and Cake (2015), claimed that women have to pay their dues much longer than men, stating, “There’s never a call like, ‘You did great on your $5 million movie, here’s a $100 million project.’” She added, “My experience is that guys get to take the fast route.”
Despite this lack of opportunity and acknowledgment, women seem to be slowly gaining traction in the world of cinematography. Recently, Natasha Braier received loads of praise and attention for her stunning work on Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon (2016). With the recent lens work of women cinematographers making news, perhaps we are finally witnessing a bit of a much-needed change.