Roger Deakins: Cinematic Iconographer

“The eye comes first.” – St. Theodore of Studios

“Does the story tell without sound?” – Conrad Hall


This Sunday saw the long overdue Oscar win for one of modern cinema’s greatest cinematographers, Roger Deakins. His almost unending snubbing seemed emblematic of the director of photography’s usual plight as the unsung hero of a movie’s success. After all, without cinematography there would be no visual story, which is to say there would be no movie. We the viewing public too often take cinematographers for granted as we take cameras for granted, and yet it is thanks to their keen sight and careful positioning that we forget the latter completely and so immediately believe the story coming to live before us. But even if after Sunday night he had still not received his much-deserved recognition—that is, even if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had still not come to its senses after fourteen opportunities—Deakins’s legacy would have remained already firmly established. In Deakins, the role of cinematographer, usually “one of the most obscure members of the production team, responsible for all the visual elements of the film,”[1] has risen to an auteur status. He is the unseen author of the silent stories we see and believe and carry with us long after we have left the theater or screen. His images leave a certain special imprint in the viewer, develop memories of a vicarious experience they otherwise would not have had. Continue reading “Roger Deakins: Cinematic Iconographer”



[For my mother.]

In the past year or so the word “great” has gained a peculiar currency. That currency may be starting to wane, at present, but I have continued to wonder what the term means for myself and others. For at least nine months I have been asking myself what greatness really looks like.

And what have I found? Continue reading “Greatness”