India Today
The Lord of Light Image Credit: India Today
The Lord of Light Image Credit: India Today

The Lord Of Light

Robert Richardson, 63, has won the Academy Award for cinematography three times, for JFK (1991), The Aviator (2004) and Hugo (2011). He received a Lifetime Achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers in March. We caught up with him on a brief visit to Delhi.

Trisha Gupta

Q, You’ve been a cinematographer for nearly four decades. The technology has changed a fair bit. Has what makes a good cinematographer changed? The techniques have changed. The speed of film altered first. In the studio system, with highlighting, to trying to do no lighting, yet having slow speed so you had to do lighting. And then you moved into digital, which had a higher speed, so lighting started to disappear altogether. It’s more about shading than lighting. Composition altered. You got the handheld shot. All changes created by technology.

Q, Almost all ‘films’ are now shot in the digital format. Do you see this more as a loss or a gain? I could take both those perspectives. Film has been developed for years as a way to capture human skin tone more naturally. It has a softer resonance. But digital’s moving into a larger space of comfort, a wider range of capture. Also, you have to use less light to achieve the look.

Q, So would one argument for the digital format be about being closer to life, more natural? That’s where they’ve gone. But, in a film, you’re telling a story. Even a writer can’t do that in a ‘natural’ manner. Why should a cinematographer?

Q, You’ve had close working partnerships with great directors like Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Have you ever been tempted to direct? I&rsq

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