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On The Rise 2015: 15 Cinematographers To Watch

On The Rise 2015: 15 Cinematographers To Watch

It’s that time of year again, when blockbusters start to lull, the fall festival season hasn’t quite begun, and when the movies on release tend to be slimmer pickings. That’s when we like to look to the future and the talents who’ll be shaping it, with our On The Rise season of actors, actresses, writers, directors, cinematographers and composers to watch.

Having tackled actors, actresses and composers so far, we move to one of our favorite parts of the On The Rise season — the cinematographer. Arguably no position in a filmmaking team other than the director and the writer have as much impact on the finished product as the director of photography — every image that you see will be one that they were responsible for capturing, and a great DoP can make a dire movie worth the price of admission.

Over the years, we’ve included people like Greig Fraser, Reed Morano, Mátyás Erdély, Bradford Young, Ben Richardson, Rachel Morrison, Sean Porter, Natasha Braier and Autumn Durald as ones to watch. Who made the cut this time around? Take a look below, and let us know your own favorites in the comments.

Adam Arkapaw

Of all the things we found ourselves missing in “True Detective” season 2 — the assured direction, McConaughey and Harrelson, a script without the words “blue balls in your heart” — one of the biggest absences was the very fine photography by Adam Arkapaw. The Australian DoP’s been knocking around for a little while — he shot both “Animal Kingdom” and “The Snowtown Murders” to memorable effect, as well as Cate Shortland’s gorgeous “Lore” on Super 16, before owning the artful murder-mystery miniseries genre with both Jane Campion’s “Top Of The Lake” and “True Detective” (he won Emmys for both). The long-take action sequence in the latter is probably his most famous achievement, but the atmosphere he brought to the show was undoubtedly a huge part of its success. Back on the big screen, he’s done a killer job reunited with ‘Snowtown’ director Justin Kurzel on Macbeth (the film’s smoky, red-tinged conclusion has some of the most memorable imagery of the year), and has teamed with Derek Cianfrance for the upcoming “The Light Between Oceans,” and with “Animal Kingdom”’s David Miçhod for TV ballet drama “Flesh And Bone.”

Charlotte Bruus Christensen

The return of “Festen” director Thomas Vinterberg to the world scene has been a welcome thing, but part of the credit for his comeback should go to his recent-regular DoP Charlotte Bruus Christensen. The Danish photographer left the National Film & Television School a decade ago, and soon enough had crossed Vinterberg’s path, for the little-seen “Submarino.” But their collaboration on the stunning, Oscar-nominated “The Hunt” got more attention: stark, handheld and sometimes seeming to push directly into the soul of the film’s lead character, Christensen won the Vulcan award for technical achievement at Cannes, and rightly so. The pair worked together again in rather more striking form with the stunning, shot-on-35-mil “Far From The Madding Crowd,” but she’s starting to branch out too: she shot Anton Corbijn’s James Dean movie “Life” (a compliment, given that Corbijn started as a photographer, and made a film about a photographer), and is making her first studio movie with Tate Taylor’s “The Girl On The Train” starring Emily Blunt and Rebecca Ferguson.

Radium Cheung

Perhaps the most talked about photography in the indie world this year has been in Tangerine,” Sean Baker’s brilliant day-in-the-life picture about two trans sex workers in L.A. looking to track down the cheating boyfriend of one of them. Co-shot by Baker and the Hong Kong-born Radium Cheung, the film had a striking, gorgeous look, capturing the city better than anything in a long time, and yet remarkably was shot on a trio of iPhones. Not even the iPhone 6. Cheung has been working his way up through the ranks for a while, with crew credits on “Rabbit Hole,” “All Is Lost” and “The Americans,” but he rolls beautifully with the challenges of the format in collaboration with Baker (with whom he also shot the excellent, more traditionally-made “Starlet” a few years back), creating a stunning widescreen look with a single look. Next up, he’s got a couple of indies, “The Blood Stripe” and “Border Crossing.”

Crystel Fournier

As this year’s “Girlhood” cemented, Céline Sciamma is one of the most exciting filmmakers in world cinema, and as her inexorable rise continues, her regular DoP Crystel Fournier is coming with her. Fournier’s credits stretch back to the early 2000s (Emmanuelle Bercot’s “Clément” and Delphine Gleize’s “Carnage” were two of the early notable ones), but she really started to turn heads with Sciamma’s “Water Lilies” in 2007. Their collaboration continued with “Tomboy” in 2011, but their finest work together to date was the stunning “Girlhood,” which mixed an absolute naturalism with a more heightened almost music-video feel (as with the stunning blue-tinged sequence set to Rihanna’s “Diamonds”). Perhaps more than anything else, it’s put Fournier on the map, and some very prominent people have started to pay attention: she’s making her first American movie with “Bonjour Anne,” the first fiction film from “Hearts Of Darkness” helmer (and spouse of Francis Ford and mother of Sofia and Roman) Eleanor Coppola, starring Nicolas Cage and Diane Lane.

Jim Frohna

We’re in a golden age of television cinematography: from “Hannibal” and “House Of Cards” to “The Knick” and “Mr. Robot,” the small screen has never looked as good as it does today. But one of our favorites of late, in perhaps a less showy, but just as impressive way as some of the above, was “Transparent,” courtesy of cinematographer Jim Frohna. The DP has credits as an electrician or a gaffer on movies like “The Usual Suspects” and “Adaptation,” and shot commercials and music videos for the likes of Dayton & Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) and Mike Mills (“Beginners”), before making his feature cinematography debut on Mills’ documentary “Does Your Soul Have A Cold.” Frohna moved into features with Jill Soloway’s “Afternoon Delight,” and then reunited with her for her terrific Amazon comedy-drama, bringing a level of warmth and tactility that’s rare for something shot digitally (he swears by the Canon C500). The show’s star Jeffrey Tambor calls Frohna “probably the most intuitive DP I’ve ever worked with,” and we can’t wait to see what he does for season two.

Sturla Brandth Grøvlen

Move over Emmanuelle Lubezki, there’s a new king of the one-take movie, and it’s 35-year-old Norwegian DP Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria,” one continuous 130-minute shot without cheats, telling the story of an insane night in Berlin, is one of the most talked about international movies of the year, and it looks to make a superstar of Grøylen (who, as our review pointed out, gets the first mention in the credits above even his director, a recognition of his astonishing feat). As if Grøvlen, who met Schipper while shooting a movie, “I Am Here,” in which the latter was an actor, wasn’t having a good enough year, he also shot “Rams,” for Icelandic director Grímur Hákornasson, which won the top prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar this year. So far, he’s mostly been working in Scandinavia and Europe (horror film “Shelley” is next), but Hollywood will surely be calling sooner rather than later.

James Hawkinson

Almost universally acknowledged as the best-looking show on television, “Hannibal” has deployed a top-notch line-up of directors across its three seasons, including David Slade, Vincenzo Natali, James Foley, John Dahl and Neil Marshall, but the thing that unites them all is James Hawkinson, who’s credited on all but two episodes of the series. A music-video and commercials veteran (he shot Chris Cunningham’s famous “Windowlicker” spot for Aphex Twin), Hawkinson shot a few movies in the late 00s (the “Hitcher” remake, “The Unborn”), but became better known as a lenser for TV comedy like “Arrested Development” and “Community,” working on 26 episodes of the latter, including Justin Lin’s famous “Modern Warfare” episode. But a long commercials relationship with “Hannibal” pilot director David Slade landed him the gig there, and he’s not looked back since, producing hour after hour of some of the most striking and distinctive imagery ever seen on television. The show’s likely coming to an end, at least as a series, this week, but Hawkinson’s got his next gig lined up already, shooting half of Amazon’s new show, “The Man In The High Castle.” 

Sara Mishara
Probably the brightest light to emerge out of Canadian cinematography circles in a while, Sara Mishara looks set to rise and rise over the next few years. Mishara’s first feature as DoP was 2007’s “Continental: A Film Without Guns” by Quebecois filmmaker Stephane Lafleur, followed by pictures with other French-Canadian bright sparks like Maxime Giroux (an old college pal) and Yves-Christian Fournier. In 2011, she didn’t just shoot, but also co-wrote “Romeo Eleven,” which made the competition in Karlovy Vary, but her most notable work came in the last twelve months. First there was a reunion with Lafleur for Playlist favoriteTu Dors Nicole,” where her spry black-and-white photography does a huge amount to elevate the twentysomething-comedy-drama above its competitors. And then came the acclaimed “Felix & Meira,” about the affair between a Hasidic Jewish Montreal woman and a gentile man: shot with an almost Gordon Willis-ish facility for handling darkness, the film won Best Canadian Feature at TIFF last year. 

Jakob Ihre

It’s always gratifying to see someone we’ve had our eye on from world cinema for a while get further awareness thanks to an acclaimed U.S. movie, and that’s just happened to the excellent Jakob Ihre. The Swedish cinematographer trained at London’s National Film And Television School, where he met Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier, the pair collaborating on short “Procter.” He swiftly graduated to features — Penny Woolcock’s “Exodus” and Alexis dos Santos’ “Unmade Beds” — before lensing Trier’s tremendous feature debut “Reprise” and his follow-up “Oslo, August 31st.” Quiet, ever-observing, but with an eye for a beautiful image, he’s been moving increasingly into English-language films: first with Greta Gerwig vehicle “Lola Versus,” then this year with Trier’s “Louder Than Bombs,” SXSW pic “Quitters,” and James Ponsoldt’s “End Of The Tour,” with the latter in particular impressing for the way the director and Ihre make a two-hour conversation so visually compelling.

Nicolas Karakatsanis

A respected photographer even before he made his name as a DP, Nicholas Karakatsanis’ rise over the last couple of years has been meteoric. The Belgian’s first feature, after commercial and shorts work, was his brother Dimitri’s Venice-selected “Small Gods” back in 2007, but he made his name internationally with Michaël R. Roskam’s Oscar-nominated drama “Bullhead,” which also helped to launch Matthias Schoenaerts’ career. He reteamed with both on last year’s solid gangster drama “The Drop,” and the latter on the little-seen English-language thriller “The Loft,” but really impressed us with this year’s “Violet,” a stunning-looking Michael Haneke-ish thriller from director Bas Devos (we raved about it out of New Directors/New Films earlier this year). He also shot the terrific little genre picture “Cub” (basically any great Belgian movies the last few years were shot by Karakatsanis), but has his biggest gig so far coming up: he’s lensing John Hillcoat’s cop drama “Triple 9,” starring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kate Winslet.

Nicholas D. Knowland

There’s a temptation with these lists to fill them with young, fresh-faced talent straight out of film school, but careers don’t always come blasting out of the gate, and it’s always good to see an older, oft-undervalued hand get fresh interest, and that’s very much the case with Nicholas Knowland. The British DP’s credits stretch back to the late 1960s, with Malcolm McLaren’s “The Great Rock & Roll Swindle” probably the most notable of his early credits. He’s worked consistently since, mostly in TV, but with the occasional movie outing, including the underrated 1998 Noah Taylor-starrer “Simon Magus” and Christopher Nolan favorites The Quay Brothers’ “The Piano Tuner Of EarthQuakes” along the way. But he’s soared of late thanks to his two films with director Peter Strickland, the giallo-tinged “Berberian Sound Studio” and the gorgeous “The Duke Of Burgundy.” Each were among the most beautiful films of their respective years, and look to give Knowland a hell of a third act to his career.

Sam Levy

Even great comedies often suffer in the photography department — feeling a need to service the jokes rather than the image, it can seemingly be the last thing a director thinks about, and as such, it’s relatively rare to see a great cinematographer break out of the genre. Sam Levy is the happy exception. A protege of the late Harris Savides who cut his teeth with music videos for the likes of Oasis and Beck, Levy first popped up on radars thanks to his lovely lensing of Kelly Reichardt’s “Wendy And Lucy,” but it was when Savides recommended him to Noah Baumbach that his career really skyrocketed. Beginning with the gorgeous black-and-white of “Frances Ha,” the pair have made three films together, and the smart framing of “While We’re Young” and the luminous lighting of “Mistress America” demonstrate Levy’s versatility. He’s likely to show more of that soon: he’s got documentary “Adult Rappers” on the way, along with Rebecca Miller’s hotly-tipped TIFF entry “Maggie’s Plan,” which reunites him with Greta Gerwig.

Eponine Momenceau

It’s impressive enough to be picked, while still in your twenties, to shoot a movie for one of the most acclaimed names in world cinema for your first feature as director of photography. It’s even more impressive for that film to win the Palme d’Or. That’s the remarkably path that Eponine Momenceau has traveled in the last year or so. Momenceau, who just turned 30 this year, was until recently mostly involved in photography and experimental art-films, while also regularly serving as the DoP for fashion films and music videos directed by Mathieu Demy (the son of Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy). This, presumably, brought her to the attention of Jacques Audiard, stepping away from his regular cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine for the first time in fifteen years for his latest, the Palme d’Or-winning “Dheepan.” Momenceau nails it, bringing a sense of magic realism alongside the grittiness in a way that perfectly suits Audiard’s style, and the film’s success at Cannes will likely make her a very hot property indeed.

Masanobu Takayanagi

We’ve been on the verge of putting Masanobu Takayanagi on this list for some time, but 2015 has been the year that his position became undeniable. Born in Japan but educated in the U.S a the AFI Conservatory, Takayanagi worked early on as a second-unit photographer on movies like “Babel,” “State Of Play” and “Eat Pray Love,” before making his feature lensing debut to impressive effect on Gavin O’Connor’s “Warrior,” followed swiftly by equally memorable work on “The Grey.” 2012 saw him lens David O Russell’s multi Oscar-winning “Silver Linings Playbook,” with particularly steely, strong work on “Out Of The Furnace” the next year. 2015 has been his busiest year yet — he kicked off with sparse, mature photography on James Franco/Jonah Hill vehicle “True Story,” and will be all over the festival circuit, reuniting with Cooper on “Black Mass,” and also lensing Thomas McCarthy’s all-star “Spotlight.” Consider him firmly among the A-list these days.

Sean Price Williams

Few names have become as omnipresent as quickly in the indie world as Sean Price Williams, who’s racked up a staggering 36 credits since first making his name with Alex Ross Perry’s “The Color Wheel” in 2011. The insanely prolific DoP, a one-time assistant to the late Albert Maysles, has worked on plenty of movies that never got beyond the festival circuit (including his sole directorial outing, “Eyes Find Eyes”), but he’s also been responsible for the look of a number of the most notable films in the post-mumblecore era of American independent cinema, including “Somebody Up there Likes Me,” “Christmas, Again,” “Heaven Knows What,” and most famously, his two other movies with Perry, “Listen Up Philip” and “Queen Of Earth.” Both deploying a warm, grainy super-16 feel, they feel like defining statements for his career up this point, but we can’t wait to see where he ends up going next.

Honorable Mentions: As ever, there’s a very long list of people who could have made the cut, and may yet in years to come. Very close were Benjamin Kračun, whose work on “Hyena” is incredibly striking, “It Follows” lenser Mike Gioulakis, Jarin Blaschke, who cemented the promise of “I Believe In Unicorns” with “The Witch,” “Ex Machina” DoP Rob Hardy, Tat Radcliffe of “71,” and Mikhail Krichman, who went from “Leviathan” to “Miss Julie.

There’s also Matthew J. Lloyd, who shot all of “Daredevil” as well as co-DP-ing “Cop Car,” David O Russell’s new favorite Linus Sandgren, who’s doing Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” as well as “Joy,” “Wild Tales”’ Javier Juliá, Martin Ahlgren, who shone on “House Of Cards” this year, “End Of Watch” and “Suicide Squad” DoP Roman Vasyanov, Irina Lubtchansky, who does a sterling job on Desplechin’s “My Golden Days,” Diego Garcia, who beautifully lenses Apichatpong Weerasehtakul’s “Cemetery Of Splendor,” David Gallego of “Embrace Of The Serpent,” and Marcell Rév, who did “White God.”

And then there’s also Valentyn Vasyanovych of “The Tribe,” Guillaume Deffontaines who did both “Far From Men” and “P’tit Quinquin,” “Mommy” photographer André Turpin, “Faults”’ Michael Ragen, “Spring” photographer Aaron Moorhead, Sharone Meir, who’s going from “Whiplash” to “Rings,” Josephine Decker’s photographer Ashley Connor, Christopher Ross of “Monsters: Dark Continent” and “Black Sea,” Duplass collaborator Jas Shelton, who did great work on “The Stanford Prison Experiment,” Brett Pawlak of “Short Term 12” and “We Are Your Friends,” recent VMA nominee Mike Simpson (“The Taiwan Oyster“), Martin Ruhe of “Control” and “The Keeping Room,” Yves Belanger, who could be an Oscar nominee for “Brooklyn,” Adam Newport-Berra from SXSW hit “Creative Control,” “Krisha” DP Drew Daniels, Arnaud Potier of “Breathe” and “Les Cowboys,” “Nuoc 2030”’s Bao Nguyen and “Sleeping Giant”’s James Klopko. Anyone else? Let us know in the comments. 

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