Why Cinematography…?

John Brawley

I went though a lot of phases as a kid.

For a while I was mad keen on electronics.  Starting off with Dick Smith electronics kits, I built miniature FM transmitters and home stereo components.  I eventually built my own tube based audio amplifier.

I had a chemistry set that offered 101 different experiments.  I did all of them.

I had a microscope and a telescope.

My primary school’s first computer was a single Apple IIe and I was often called out of my regular grade 4 class to help get it running for the teacher.

At high school I loved science, and biology.  I used to have a newspaper stand on saturday mornings and always read New Scientist and Scientific American from cover to cover.

I loved the nerdier pursuits and was curious about lots of things in the world around me.  But I would often have intense periods of interest in a certain subject which would wane in a short amount of time.

I’d lose interest and move on to the next thing.

Image making stopped me in my tracks.

Photography was the first interest that never got boring.  There was always something new or different every time I exposed a frame.  I could push process the film.  I could go to a new location.  I could go to the same location at a different time of day.  I could take photos of the same person in different locations.  I could take the same photo twice and it would still never be the same.

Photography is all about using and mastering a mix of science processes.  But crucially it’s in the service of a creative outcome. 

Cinematography is the same.  You use knowledge of optics (lenses), physics (camera movement, lighting), chemistry (film processing).  

You use all this hardcore technical knowledge but it’s just to get an emotional response from the audience.  None of them really know or even care what you went through to get the image.  They just (hopefully) respond to the material without understanding how it was done.  You’re really just hoping that the end result engages them and serves the story you’re telling.

You’re telling stories with pictures.  You can move people using nerdy knowledge without them realizing it.

The greatest thing to me is to watch material that I’ve worked on with an audience.   You can actually feel their response.  For me that is the reward of cinematography.  I love the anonymity of sitting in a cinema and watching something I’ve shot up on that big screen and feeling the audience respond.  To feel the collective response of that audience in the cinema as the story unfolds.  

Cinematography is at once nerdy, exciting, moving, emotional, engaging, compelling, humanist and maybe even noble*.

It’s definitely not boring.

And I love it.

* with apologies to all the third world doctors, teachers etc out there….

About johnbrawley

Director Of Photography striving to create compelling images
This entry was posted in Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why Cinematography…?

  1. Terry K says:

    Same bug I caught as a kid, “Technical Artistry”.
    Using a technical process to create a work of emotion and imagination, there’s nothing else like it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s