A documentary made in 1992, “Visions of Light,” describes several different styles of cinematography, including film noir, color films and other innovative examples. A number of noted cinematographers, including Sven Nykquist, Lazlo Kovaks, John Bailey, Lisa Rinzler and Conrad L. Hall discuss the art and craft of film photography.
The film serves as a review of cinematography starting with the early days, including scenes from “Birth of a Nation,” which featured the camerawork of G. W. Bitzer. Although the Director of Photography position might be the second most important position in a film crew (behind director), they often don’t receive their well-earned recognition among film fans. One only has to watch a DVD version of a movie with the commentary track turned on to hear how much energy filmmakers put into the “look” and lighting of their films.
Perhaps if more cinematographers became directors, we’d hear more about their outstanding work. Of course, it also helps when cinematographers work with top directors. For instance, Gordon Willis worked with directors Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Hal Ashby and Alan J. Pakula. Sven Nykquist spent his early career working with Ingmar Bergmann. However, Nykquist also directed 5 movies himself.
I should add that Nancy Schreiber served as the cinematographer for Visions of Light. Arnold Glassman, Todd McCarthy and Stuart Samuels directed it.