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SHADOWCATCHERS MARTHA ANSARA

A history of cinematography in Australia


Hand-cranked cameras

Both cameramen and production companies owned cameras but there were limited numbers of the better (more expensive) models, and older cameras were kept in use for years. It is not so extraordinary, in the Australian context, that Tasman Higgins used his pre-World War I Pathé Parvo on mute drama sequences at least until World War II or that Al Burne modified his Pathé as a sound camera. Jack Bruce was, to some degree, big-noting himself with his claim that in 1922 he bought “the first Debrie in Australia”, the Debrie being a camera with a much steadier movement. One high speed Debrie purchased in the late 1920s was still in Cinesound Studio’s inventory in 1963. More typically, when Bill Trerise arrived at Australasian Films around 1914, a wooden camera was being used — probably a Pathé Parvo. Not many years later Trerise had an English Prestwich and then a Williamson — a large, single-lens, heavy, rectangular box. Wally Sully cranked what appears to have been a modified Pathé studio camera with a 400-foot magazine; again, an awkward camera but with the advantage of a relatively steady film transport system and a larger film load. The rival to the Pathé in terms of its widespread use internationally was an expensive camera with a superior design both in its mechanism and for ease of handling: the

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American Bell & Howell Model 2709, launched in 1912. Lacey Percival recalled Australasian Films’ importation of a Bell & Howell sometime before 1918 as an important “first”. The Rushcutters Bay Studio, Australia’s “only studio devoted to the sole purpose of making motion pictures”, was not so wonderfully well-equipped if, as it seems, there was only the one Bell & Howell. However, this appears to have been the only one available in Australia for some years. In contrast, visiting Fox cameraman Len Roos is reported as having arrived in Australia in 1924 personally equipped with no fewer than five cameras including two Debries and a “pancake” Akeley, a round camera with revolutionary features for specialised cinematography. Either Roos or visiting director Norman Dawn appears to have brought with him a second Bell & Howell, but there is no information about when other Bell & Howells were imported into Australia. The Bell & Howell was the iconic American camera, the one with the magazine that looks like Mickey Mouse ears. It is the camera — cranked by D.W. Griffith’s cameraman Billy Bitzer, cap backwards on his head in the shining sun — which is used to represent the emergence of Hollywood cinema. It was a virtually indestructible rack-over camera, all-metal, with a precision, steady movement and a rotating turret that could

ranking a camera I was using a German Askania camera, hand cranked. We had to learn to turn at the right speed. Sixteen frames in those days, silent speed. Sixteen frames and we had to keep it absolutely smooth, you know. No jerking. When you were an assistant you had to practise as much as possible. And also you had to be ambidextrous. You had not only to crank the camera but you had to pan with another handle, so you got the beat up and you could sort of set your brain, click into speed, then you could dislodge — completely isolate yourself, once you got the speed going, cause you’d get this innate dark and light effect if you weren’t cranking correctly. It’d go light and dark, light and dark. The boys today really don’t know what we used to have to go through.  – Arthur Hansen, ACS

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take up to four different lenses. This allowed “making close-up views without budging the camera from its position”, according to the ads of the day. It had attachments which enabled cameramen to achieve complex visual effects, particularly superimpositions and other opticals. Aesthetically as well as technically, the advent of the Bell & Howell facilitated the shooting of more sophisticated pictures with a greater range of stylistic possibilities. Indeed, the camera was so good that it remained in use around the world into the sound era. The cameras which, for the most part, were in general use during the silent period were not easy to handle in terms of viewing systems and the demands of handcranking, especially when mounted on geared tripod heads with their separate handles for pan and tilt. While there was no standard camera speed as such, most cameras exposed eight frames per turn of the handle, which at two turns per second was initially 16 frames per second. Over time, cranking speeds increased gradually towards 20–21 frames per second. In any case, a skilled cameraman would sometimes adjust his cranking speed to suit the action he was photographing. Projection speeds could also be variable — especially if the program was a long one and the projectionist wanted to get away early!

Pearls and Savages, c.1921–1923 The inscription on the back of the photo reads,“Captain Hurley taking cinema films from the summit of Mount Aird. In [the] background lies the Delta of Kikori River.” Hurley mounted several expeditions to Papua New Guinea between 1920 and 1926, and made at least two versions of the documentary Pearls and Savages. His camera is a Prestwich Model 5. He used the same model on the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition.

Courtesy Queensland State Library


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The 1927 Royal Commission

For the Term of His Natural Life was the last significant silent film to provide employment for Australian cameramen. From 1925 the spectre of sound had been hanging over film production and it wasn’t a matter of if, but when it would be introduced. In 1927 Warner Brothers released The Jazz Singer in the US, and in Australia De Forest Phonofilms demonstrated a sound film of the official opening of Parliament House in Canberra, including speeches from the Duke of York and the singing of the National Anthem led by Dame Nellie Melba. As with the advent of any new technology, a great deal of uncertainty surrounded both the production of synch sound films and the wiring of cinemas for screening them. By 1929 production of feature films in Australia had ground to a halt — and the Great Depression had begun. The 1920s were also a time of increased public debate concerning the social and economic aspects of the industry. Film producers — would-be film producers — the distributors/ exhibitors and a range of community interest groups, including women’s organisations seeking stricter censorship, became embroiled in controversy and feelings ran high. Since the arrival of Fox in Australia in 1915, the major US studio distributors and Union Theatres–Australasian Films had extended their activities and restrictive practices across the exhibition sector. Any cinema wanting Hollywood films had to submit to the block booking of American product in advance, sight unseen, effectively shutting out both British and Australian films. By the mid-1920s American films constituted 93 per cent of those imported into the country and the methods of the American film distributors, according to Australian filmmakers, accounted for the failure of their own features to gain exhibition. Empire loyalists, opposed to American cultural influences, backed Australian producers in calling for government tariffs, taxes and quotas to protect British and Australian films, a move vigorously opposed by the distributors. The resulting conflict led to the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia (1927) which heard testimony from 250 witnesses. These included cameramen-producers Frank Hurley, Bert Segerberg (who was by then making industrial documentaries), and Bert Kirwan (who was making commercial and advertising films in Queensland). Franklyn Barrett, who had moved into exhibition, also testified, as did Jack Bruce, who styled himself as a Hollywood-returned cameraman as well as the

supervisor of Commonwealth Film Laboratories. In its recommendations the Royal Commission found “that there is no American combine in existence in Australia exercising a stranglehold over the motion picture industry”, and rejected calls for an exhibition quota for Australian films as potentially ruinous for exhibitors. Instead, it proposed an Empire Quota system — but the legislation for this measure was never passed. There is an underlying sense in the Commission’s findings that under Australian conditions making feature films to a suitable standard was too big an ask. The only support offered for Australian producers was a film competition with cash prizes, a competition that soon lapsed for lack of quality entries. For the next forty years, relatively few Australian feature dramas were produced and Australian cameramen continued to work primarily in documentaries and news.

The Cheaters, 1930 Completed as a silent movie in early 1929, the film was redone as a partial talkie because of distribution difficulties. Jack Fletcher (cameraman) is handcranking his Bell & Howell. Paulette McDonagh (writer/director/producer) is seated to the right.

Courtesy National & Film Sound Archive

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magic world K.G., Ken Hall, was absolutely my god. If he’d have said to me, “Lie down there and let me walk over you.” I would have said, “Yes! Which side would you like?” I really thought he was absolutely wonderful. He had a wonderful manner. He didn’t ever talk down to anybody. Even if you were the lowliest of the low, he would listen. And I thought he was just brilliant. I really did. And all of the others, I thought they were all — so clever. Really. Because it was sort of a magic world. We all worked for absolute peanuts, but nobody ever tried to leave or go anywhere else or do anything else because you were all hooked by it. And this is the loyalty he had from nearly everybody: you worked long hours and never complained. It was great. I was working there when they were making Let George Do It with George Wallace. And I can remember we didn’t have all the mod cons that we do now. To go to the toilet, they built a little tiny narrow passageway at the back of the studio where you had to tiptoe — if they were shooting sound — in going right up the other end of the building to the toilet. So you always used to get a peek in there and have a look at them. I was a bit of a mad tap dancer in those days, and when they were on break one time, George Wallace taught me a variation of the time step. You know, all the people who appeared in the films were just like the staff. I remember when Shirley Ann Richards left to go over to America, she came around the lab and poked her nose in everywhere and said a fond farewell, cuddles and all. And at the end of each film, we used to have a ball. All the stars and everybody used to go. It was in the studio and it was just absolutely fantastic. – Nita Gardiner, Cinesound assistant editor, wife of Jack Gardiner ACS, mother of Calvin Gardiner ACS and director Chris Gardiner, grandmother of cinematographer Tony Gardiner

It Isn’t Done, 1937

Thoroughbred, 1936

Cinesound. Ken Hall (director) seated, and cast members Cecil Kellaway behind Hall with Shirley Ann Richards on the other side of the camera. George Heath was the chief cameraman.

Cinesound crew shot. Arthur Higgins (second camera) left and George Heath (DOP) behind the camera to the right; seated, front: Sid Whiteley (?), Ken Hall (director) holding megaphone, Clive Cross (sound) (?).

Courtesy National Film & Sound Archive

Courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW

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good camera Newman Sinclair was a very good camera for the war for the simple reason that once you wound up your camera, your camera would run for 200 feet, whereas with an Eyemo, just at the middle of something, suddenly the bloody thing has run out, and you have to stop and wind it again. And also you could put your Newman Sinclair down and sit on it. I’m not kidding! You’re humping a camera, and you can put the camera down — it’s a box about as big as that, you see. You could sit on the damn thing.  – Reg Edwards ACS

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World War II, 1943 New Guinea, between Buna and Sananand. Department of Information cameramen Bill Carty and Cliff Bottomley, official photographers during the final stages of the New Guinea campaign.

World War II, 1943 Northern Australia. Department of Information cinematographer Roy Driver.

Photograph H.D. Dick, courtesy Australian War Memorial

Courtesy Australian War Memorial Alan Anderson, early 1940s World War II, c.1943 (?) Lieutenant F.S. (Syd) Wood with his 35mm Bell & Howell Eyemo, a camera widely used by combat cameramen. It was a non-reflex wind-up camera which took 100-foot daylight loads, or just over one minute of film.

Alan Anderson with a partially dismantled Debrie Parvo camera. Anderson was a member of the Department of Information Cinematographic and Photographic Unit headed by Capt. Frank Hurley, stationed in the Middle East in World War II.

North Borneo. Hugh McInnes, film and stills cameraman, Department of Information, attached to the Australian Army as an official war photographer.

Courtesy National Film & Sound Archive

Courtesy National Film & Sound Archive

Courtesy Australian War Memorial

World War II, 1945

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Damien Parer (1912–1944)

Damien Parer’s death in World War II carried him into the realms of Australian legend, and he continues to be one of Australia’s best-known cinematographers. At the time of his death Parer was young and handsome and had already achieved national fame through his on-screen appearance in his Academy Award-winning Kokoda Front Line (1942). He was committed to capturing images that tell a human story, and created an emotionally engaged style of combat photography. Both his footage and his death itself have contributed to an Australian mythology which celebrates the suffering of men at war and the cameraman as adventure hero. A camera enthusiast from a young age, Parer was apprenticed to a Melbourne still photographer before moving into film as an assistant to Arthur Higgins on Charles Chauvel’s Heritage (1935) at Frank Thring’s Efftee Studios. There Parer befriended another camera assistant, John Heyer, later to become a highly-regarded documentary filmmaker. Middle-class, educated, and intellectually curious, the two young cineastes read European film journals, the writings of Eisenstein, Pudovkin and Grierson, and went to see foreign films. Heyer recalls that Arthur Higgins, a kindly man, was somewhat bemused by all this and steered them towards The American Cinematographer with its more practical applications. After Heritage finished up, Parer worked once again in still photography before rejoining Chauvel at the newly formed National Studios in Sydney as assistant to Tas Higgins on the independent feature Uncivilised (1936) and as camera assistant/stills photographer on the two National coproductions, Flying Doctor (1936) and Rangle River (1936). When feature production at National did not continue, Parer returned to freelance stills photography, occasionally getting a few small film jobs. He operated a spring-wound Eyemo camera in the spectacular multi-camera horse charge scene shot by Chauvel in 1938 to raise money for Forty Thousand Horsemen (1940). In 1939 Parer was working in Max Dupain’s photographic studio when he was recruited to take the place of the recently deceased Bert Ive in the Cinema Branch of the Department of Commerce in Melbourne. On Australia’s entry into the war, the Branch was transferred to the Department of Information

(DOI) and Parer was sent to Palestine as the DOI’s first war cameraman. He was later joined by a unit headed by 56-year-old Captain Frank Hurley, and they followed the Australians through Greece and the Middle East. It was not a happy collaboration. Parer did not take kindly to Hurley’s advice that he was taking unnecessary risks, nor to Hurley’s propensity for re-creations and tripod shots. He also disliked the idea that Hurley might be getting the credit for his own handheld shooting in the midst of battle, an approach which he thought essential to capturing the authenticity of war. In early 1942, with the return of the unit to Australia, Parer left for New Guinea, where he shot his most memorable footage, influenced both by his Catholic humanism and his film viewing. Kokoda Front Line’s handheld tracking shot of exhausted and ragged soldiers, for example, was consciously inspired by the fluid camera movement of Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937, DOP: Christian Matras). Other shots, such as those portraying the suffering of the wounded and the compassion of mates, were infused with a similar artistic sensibility and a great sense of composition. By this time Parer’s determination to show Australia the realities of war, and perhaps also his growing fame, were leading to conflict with DOI officials, and he angrily, albeit reluctantly, gave notice. Before leaving the DOI he filmed footage used in Movietone’s Salamaua Front Line (1943) and Cinesound’s Assault on Salamaua (1943), both prominently featuring Parer’s name on the head titles. In November 1943 Parer was in New Guinea, working for Paramount. In June 1944 he married Marie Cotter in Sydney, later the same day recording commentary for the compilation documentary Sons of the Anzacs made by his former Efftee mentor, Arthur Higgins. In July Parer covered the American attack on Guam and then moved on to Peleliu. It was there, filming alongside a tank in a Marine assault, that he was killed by a burst of machine gun fire. By the time his body was retrieved, marines had plundered his corpse and souvenired his film. Two short rolls of film were later recovered. It was a common belief among Australian cameramen — characteristically — that the Americans left Parer unprotected, whereas the Australian troops had looked out for him as one of their own.

Damien Parer, 1930s Bungan Beach, Sydney.

Photograph Max Dupain, courtesy National Library of Australia and Jill White

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Damien Parer, 1943 Damien Parer, official military photographer and cameraman, Department of Information Cinematographic and Photographic Unit, with a Mitchell camera.

Courtesy Australian War Memorial Damien Parer, 1943 Kanga Force Scout Tree Lookout, overlooking Salamaua Harbour New Guinea. Damien Parer with New Guinean assistant Cyril and Newman Sinclair camera.

Frame enlargement, courtesy John Hosking

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Channel 7 News, 1963 The Helping Hand, 1963

Barrack Street, Sydney. Eric Kenning with an Auricon camera shooting a to-camera piece by an ATN journalist.

Dundas Migrant Hostel, Sydney. A film produced by Visatone for the Department of Immigration on the activities of the Good Neighbour Movement. L–R: Mrs E. Rehkopf from Germany, her daughter Diana, unknown, Ross Wood (cameraman).

New York. John Leake, filming a Qantas commercial.

Courtesy National Archives of Australia

Courtesy John Leake

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Photograph Robert McFarlane, courtesy Robert McFarlane Flight 773, 1959


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Westinghouse TVC, 1957 Cinesound Studios, 1959 Mike Molloy operating NC Mitchell; Howard Rubie is to his left.

Cinesound Studios. Agency: George Patterson. L–R: Des Freeman (producer) talking with actress, Misha Kaneef (director), Bob Wright (DOP) operating camera.

Photograph Ron Windon, courtesy Ron Windon

Photograph Ron Windon, courtesy Ron Windon

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woman shoots film In 1957 I returned to Brisbane and I shot this movie, beautiful black and white. And I sent it down to Supreme in Sydney for processing. And I thought, “Well now, I’m not going to say it’s a woman because I want them to treat this film carefully.” So I just signed, “L.E. Fraser”. I had my Kodak Special and I’d go right down to Stradbroke Island. I’d be just by myself and shot this film — a day on the beach. The sun rose and the birds came and the sea washed over the shells. And it was very, very beautiful. I used to get the reports back and project it in my bedroom at home. And then I said to Dad, “Well, Dad, I’m now going back to England. I need to edit the film and I — need to make movies.” And so Dad said, “Well, Lilias,” he said, “Before you go, why don’t you go to Sydney and have a look at the movie business down there.” “That sounds sensible,” I thought, “I’ll go down there and I’ll visit Supreme first.” So I went down and I knocked on the door at Supreme and Gwen (Oatley) and Merv Murphy came out. And I said, “I’m Lilias Fraser.” “Yeah?” I said, “You’ve been processing my film and I sign myself L.E. Fraser.” “But we thought you were a man! Every time your rushes came down, we used to say, ‘Quickly, here’s that man’s work from Brisbane; let’s all come in and look at it. We must offer him a job; it’s so beautiful.’” They used to all rush in and look at L.E. Fraser’s rushes. And so they were going to offer him a job. Of course, when I turned up, they didn’t offer me a job. (laughs)  – Lilias Fraser, documentary director/producer and mother of Jane Castle ACS

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oing Freelance I stayed at Eric Porters until about 1972. By this stage, the big studios were starting to slow down and everybody was starting to go freelance. Even while I was at Porters, although we had three crews going, they were still bringing in outside crews, freelance. I mean, it was a trend that was starting to happen. Artransa closed down. Supreme Sound was on the verge of closing down and Eric Porters was slowing up. Anyway, in 1972–1973, I went totally freelance and have been that way ever since. I’ve shot commercials, the odd feature films and telefeatures and more commercials, documentaries, whatever. Like all of us, we do anything anyone’ll pay us for … And that’s where I am today, 20 years later, still freelancing and still shooting commercials.  – Phil Pike ACS

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great marriage destroyer If you were on a shoot, it’s got be the day’s schedule and if it doesn’t finish at five o’clock, well it was the same then as it is now, you just keep going till it’s finished. Your social life can and did frequently go out the window. I mean you can never, ever say, “Yeah, I’ll be at the party on Friday night.” Because if the job came up Friday night, then at ten o’clock at night you might still be working. It’s a great marriage destroyer, because you go away a lot. At least I did. I quite enjoy travelling anyway. But going away … And then there’s always the thing that your wife’s cooked the dinner and you’d ring up at six o’clock and say, “I’m going to be another hour yet.” And then you’d ring up at seven o’clock, “I’m going to be another hour yet.” Not the best for your wife. But what do you do? You’ve got to earn money, so that’s part of the job — you do it.  – Phil Pike ACS

Chequerboard, c.1971 ABC Television, shooting a program on a nudist colony. L–R: Fred Pickering (sound), Geoff Burton (cameraman), unknown female nudist with baby, Paul Tait (camera assistant), Russell Toose (director), unknown woman. Reportedly, the ABC canned the episode as containing “too much nudity” and it never went to air.

Photograph Kathy Atkinson, courtesy Geoff Burton The Invisible Woman, 1979 L–R: Erika Addis (cinematographer), Sabina Wynn (director).

Courtesy Erika Addis Squeeze a Flower, 1970 John McLean (operator) with Arri; the DOP was Brian West BSC.

Photograph Harry Britton, courtesy John McLean

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Newsfront, 1978 Set built for flood scenes in the Narrabeen Lakes, Sydney. L–R: David Brostoff (focus puller), Vincent Monton (DOP), Phillip Noyce (director), Errol Sullivan (first AD).

Photograph Mike Giddens, courtesy National Film & Sound Archive The Devil’s Playground, 1976 Old Melbourne Baths. Peter Sykes (focus puller), Ian Baker (DOP) operating.

Photograph John Gollings, courtesy National Film & Sound Archive Storm Boy, 1976 The Coorong, South Australia. Making wind and rain. The DOP was Geoff Burton.

Photograph David Kynoch, courtesy Geoff Burton Mad Max, 1979 Terry Gibson (stuntie) driving, David Eggby (DOP).

Courtesy David Eggby

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Qantas TVC, 1994

John Bowring (DOP) operating.

Rainbow Mountain, Northern Territory. Foreground L–R: David Gribble (DOP), James Cowley (NZ focus puller), Dennis Thompson (NZ grip).

Courtesy John Bowring, Sue Greenshields

Courtesy David Gribble

Nine Network Shout Campaign, 1989

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Promo, late 1980s Unknown TVC/promo John Bowring (DOP) with light meter.

L–R: unknown talent, Bruce Dunlop (director), John Bowring (DOP) operating.

Courtesy John Bowring, Sue Greenshields

Courtesy John Bowring, Sue Greenshields

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Antarctica, 1991 Chaos Glacier, Antarctica. Malcolm Ludgate shooting IMAX underwater.

Photograph Paul Butler, courtesy Malcolm Ludgate Kakadu Man, 1989 Film Australia, National Interest Program. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. John Hosking (cinematographer).

Courtesy Film Australia Library, National Film & Sound Archive

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Bad Boy Bubby, 1993 Adelaide. L–R: Domenico Procacci (executive producer), Ian Jones (DOP), Harry Glynatsis (focus puller).

Photograph Simon Cardwell, courtesy Vertigo Productions Love and Other Catastrophes, 1996 Melbourne. Justin Brickle (DOP).

Photograph Peter Milne, courtesy Justin Brickle Gino, 1994 Sydney. Ellery Ryan (DOP).

Photograph Corrie Ancone, courtesy Corrie Ancone Bad Boy Bubby, 1993 Adelaide. L–R: unknown (with still camera), Ian Jones (DOP), Harry Glynatsis (focus puller), Craig “Rags” Philpott (camera assistant), Claire Benito (Mam), Rolf de Heer (director).

Photograph Simon Cardwell, courtesy Ian Jones

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Withnail and I, 1987 London. Richard E. Grant (Withnail), Peter Hannan (DOP).

Courtesy Peter Hannan

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Stanley & Iris, 1989

Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

USA. L–R: Don McAlpine (DOP), Jane Fonda (Iris), Robert De Niro (Stanley), Martin Ritt (director).

Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Jessica Tandy (Daisy Werthan), Peter James (DOP).

Photograph Karen Epstein, courtesy Don McAlpine

Photograph Sam Emerson, courtesy Peter James

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Nature of Australia Episode 4, A Sunburnt Country, 1988 Lake Eyre. David Parer.

Photograph Elizabeth Parer-Cook, courtesy David Parer

The Great Outdoors, 2007

South Australia. Mandy Walker (DOP).

Channel 7, filming in the Arctic. Greg “Davo” Northam (sound recordist) with a secure grip on the HD camera, David Rose (cinematographer).

Photograph Matt Nettheim, courtesy Matt Nettheim

Photograph Trent Chapman, courtesy David Rose

Australian Rules, 2002

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Motorcar Ngutju — Bush Mechanics television series, 2002 Northern Territory. Film Australia. David Batty filming the Bush Mechanics in their EJ Holden station wagon using a DVSR PD100 mini-DV camera; front seat L–R: Steven Jupurrula Morton, Simeon Jupurrula Ross; back seat L–R: Junior Jupurrula Wilson, Randall Jupurrula Wilson.

Photograph Hugh Miller, courtesy Film Australia Library, National Film & Sound Archive

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he Look The look that a cinematographer has when they’re in between other moments on the set is really specific: it’s something that another cinematographer recognises, but very few other people realise what it is. It’s a far away concentration — it’s a picturing, so it’s a deep internal look. At the same time they’re possibly looking at something that’s right in front of their eyes. So it’s a very far look and a very internal look at the same time, imagining how the light will play, imagining how the movement through the frame is going to show up in light and shadow. Hoping that it’s going to work!  – Erika Addis, cinematographer

Cold Turkey, 2003 Alice Springs. Alan Collins (DOP).

Photograph Mark Rogers, courtesy CAAMA Productions Torn, 2006 Tim Smart (DOP).

Photograph Suzy Wood, courtesy David Redmond — Instinct Entertainment

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The Tracker, 2002 Arkaroola, Gammon Ranges National Park, South Australia. L–R: Shane Cooper (horse wrangler) holding horse’s rump, Ian Jones (DOP), Jim Willoughby (horse wrangler) holding horse’s head, Mike Smith (grip), Grant Page (The Veteran), Bill Willoughby (head horse wrangler).

Photograph Matt Nettheim, courtesy Matt Nettheim Look Both Ways, 2005 Adelaide. Mike Smith (key grip), Ray Argall (DOP), Marco Arlotta (boom swinger).

Photograph Matt Nettheim, courtesy Matt Nettheim Panadol Bullrider commercial, 2008 Michael Joy (DOP).

Courtesy Michael Joy

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good grip You know — you got to be very careful working with temperamental actors, making sure they hit their marks and, as a camera operator, if you have a good grip behind you, that’s very important, working on a dolly or a crane. One grip I was working with, he’d always float me in the right position over on a crane, if the actor was walking in for an over the shoulder shot and missed his mark on the floor — an imperceptible little float across the bloke’s shoulder. You’ve got to cheat a little bit at times. Start pulling actors up in the middle of their best performance (laughing a bit) they’ve ever done and ask them to do another take, they can throw their handbag down, “I was on it! I hit my bloody mark! You don’t know, you’re — “Yes sir, okay, three bags full.” Actors are a feeling people, trying to play an emotional scene. You’re only trying to capture that scene. So you’ll work with these bloody temperamental people and try and get the best out of them for the film. You can’t be dominating and saying mechanically, (stupid voice) “Well, I’ve got to get it right.” You have a certain feeling for these people who are performing; it’s not a dogmatic bloody mechanical thing.  – Bill Grimmond ACS

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Somersault, 2004 Abbie Cornish (Heidi), Robert Humphreys (DOP).

Photograph Matt Nettheim, courtesy Robert Humphreys Look Both Ways, 2005 Small Claims #2, 2005 Sydney. Telemovie. L–R: Peter Fitzgerald (standby props), Paul Shakeshaft (first assistant camera), Claudia Karvan (Jo Collins), Marc Spicer (steadicam operator) with a 16mm Arri SR3.

Adelaide. L–R: William McInnes (Nick) on bed, Marco Arlotta (boom swinger), Leon Teague (Doctor), Ray Argall (DOP), Jules Wurm (focus puller), Sarah Watt (director), Chris Odgers (first AD), Toivo Lember (sound recordist), unknown in cap.

Photograph Mark Rogers, courtesy Mark Rogers

Photograph Matt Nettheim, courtesy Matt Nettheim

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The Shadowcatchers  

This stylish and beautifully produced 288-page coffee table book (340 x 245 mm) contains over 380 photographs of working cinematographers ta...

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